Friday, August 22, 2008

Why do you cook?

Well, assuming you cook, I suppose. A while back, I read this article about the younger (i.e., my) generation of cooks. I won't say the article entirely surprised me, but it was an interesting read.

According to the study referenced in the article, women of today are more likely to cook because they like to than because they need to. They're also more likely to be self-taught, as their mothers were really the first generation of work-outside-the-home moms. Not surprisingly, 20-something cooks are also more likely to take shortcuts--sauce in a jar, gravy from a pouch, etc...

Naturally, the article got me to thinking about what, how, and why I cook. (Prepare for way more information about my cooking philosophy than you ever wanted to know. And some rambling, no doubt.)

I love to bake and cook, and always have. I would seem to be somewhat of an anomaly, though, in more ways than one. First, my mom did teach me how to cook. Or at least, she taught me the basics, and encouraged me to read cookbooks and try new recipes. Second, to say that I cook solely for personal enjoyment isn't true. Really, I don't think it is for anyone. Unless you can afford to eat out every meal, cooking is a necessity.

I think the biggest difference, though, between me and other 20-something cooks (at least according to this study) is that I'm not big on the "shortcuts". I would never, ever used canned or jarred gravy. (Come on, it's not hard to make gravy and it tastes a million times better!) I can't remember the last time I made a cake from a box. I cringe when a recipe calls for a "can of" this and a "box of" that. (Why do you think I love old cookbooks so much?) That's not to say I don't ever make those recipes, because I clearly do. But I do feel like a sell-out when I make a recipe like that. I'm old-fashioned enough that I think I need to put a from-scratch, three course meal on the table every night, or I'm a bad wife and mother. Obviously, I know that's all in my head. The fact that I'm cooking something, even if it does involve a can of condensed soup, is still better than ordering pizza twice a week. But that sort of thinking dies hard.

So hard, in fact, that I only recently embraced the wonder that is the CrockPot. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but I still feel a bit like a CrockPot is cheating. Of course, it's not. But I still feel like a "real" wife and a "real" mother would be slaving over a stove for hours a day. (I guess it's beside the fact that working eight hours a day makes it impossible to slave over a stove, even if I wanted to.) I've grown to love my CrockPot, something I never thought I'd say. I love that I can come home from work and not have to do anything more for supper. It's cooked all day and all that's left is to enjoy a hot meal.

I guess with that said, it seems a good place to transition into what we're having for supper tonight: CrockPot Barbequed Chicken and Cornbread Casserole
If you have a CrockPot (and don't have bizarre psychological proclivities that prevent you from using it) and haven't discovered Steph's blog, you can thank me later. The dear woman made a New Year's resolution to use her CrockPot every day for a year. And she's made some pretty glamourous things in there. In fact, I have to admit that she was instrumental in my CrockPot conversion. I've made several of her recipes and have been pleased with all of them.

Tonight's recipe, though, will be a bit of an experiment. The cornbread calls for 1/4 cups sugar. Unfortunately, I used the last of the sugar to make carrot cake the other night (and had just enough for that) and forgot to buy more. The rest of the recipe was made up. What's a girl on her lunch break to do? Substitute brown sugar. I have NO idea how that's going to work out. I'll make sure to report back.

But now, dear readers, you tell me--why do you cook?