Thursday, August 6, 2009

The nation that can't cook?

If you watch television, this is going to be really old news, but I've just discovered that KFC had a "$10 meal challenge" commercial airing last year. They claimed that you couldn't make their seven-piece meal at home for less than $10. I was gasping, choking, exclaiming, and -- according to my children who were still asleep when I saw the ad -- screaming about the absurdity that a person couldn't make seven pieces of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and four biscuits for under $10. I was even making up new dialog for the family members. When the mom and son high five at the end because the total is over $10, I exclaimed, "Woo hoo, we're complete idiots who don't realize that we don't need five pounds of flour to make four biscuits!" And as for the cute little girl at the deli counter -- buying seven pieces of fried chicken does not count as cooking at home.

It makes me think that cooking researcher Harry Balzer might be right when he says, "the skills are already lost. Who is going to teach the next generation to cook? I don’t see it." Michael Pollan interviewed him for a NY Times article, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, where he talks about how cooking has moved from the kitchen to the living room and become a spectator sport. As I read his tale of gloom, I told myself that it was not true. Surely people still know how to cook. Then I saw the KFC ad, and I tried to tell myself that the vast majority of people would not fall for such nonsense.

Then I googled "$10 meal challenge," which was probably a bad idea. I'm just glad I have naturally low blood pressure. In the comment section of one single blog post, I found enough idiocy to really depress me. Through 37 comments, people argued back and forth about whether or not it was possible to make the meal at home for less than $10. Seriously! And it was obvious that a lot of these people had not cooked at home in a long time since they had no idea how much ingredients cost. Really, it's too mentally painful for me to go through all the comments again to pick them apart for you -- it just annoys me that people can be so ignorant and arrogant. But the link is there if you want to check it out for yourself.

Being a doer, not a whiner, once I had recovered from my fit of frustration, I started thinking about what we can do about this problem. I am absolutely convinced that we must prove Mr. Balzer wrong! There are still plenty of us out here who can teach people to cook! The skills are not lost! Our health depends on it. And I'm going to put my sugar scrub where my mouth is! Okay, that didn't exactly come out right. Perhaps I should explain.

I recently made up a big batch of shea butter sugar scrub, and I'd be happy to send a jar of it to someone who teaches another person how to cook something. Yep, it's another giveaway! Here's the deal -- find someone who claims they don't know how to cook, or who says they don't know how to cook well enough to eat at home more often. Then teach them how to cook something, anything that's made with real food! You don't have to actually do it by this weekend, but at least find someone, talk to him or her, and set up a time to get together. Immediate family members are eligible, so if you have a son, daughter, or spouse who needs a cooking lesson, go for it! Post your experience in the comment section by Sunday midnight, and I'll randomly pick a winner who will receive a 3-ounce jar of my sugar scrub in his or her choice of my available fragrances.

And by the way KFC, you can make 90 biscuits from a 5-pound bag of flour. Even using organic ingredients at retail price, a biscuit costs less than 8 cents to make at home.


Brianne said...

Though not entirely immediate or new, I'll share a (lengthy, with apologies) tale on this topic... For the first four months of 2009, DH and I found ourselves living in the basement of my brother in law and his wife's townhome while our house was being built. Love these people, I do, but cooking for them was a real nightmare. Rules: no cheese, no tomato sauce, no onions, no mushrooms, no pork ever, and no seafood unless it's shrimp. Talk about picky, UGH! My culinary creativity was severely challenged to remain within such boringly basic outlines, but I did what I could to produce delicious, real food meals for the four of us while exposing them to a "new" way of eating: AT HOME, with far less processed food and a lot more flavor! True, most meals consisted of chicken or beef, potato or rice, and a simple unadulterated veggie of some kind. Yawn. First meal/lesson: a delicious but simple beef pot roast. How could I go wrong? My SIL hadn't so much as turned on her crock pot since she received it as a wedding gift, but with a little patience, I showed her how to use this marvelous and entirely un-intimidating tool. I also introduced her to (it will change the way you meal plan, I promise... a miraculous time-saver's dream) and bought her a year's membership. Over the course of those four months, I gradually expanded their horizons, one baby step at a time. One notable epiphany: they discovered they LOVED ground beef gyros with tsatziki! Fast forward, six months later. SIL officially has me on speed dial while planning her meals or grocery shopping to ask all sorts of questions: recipes I made that she liked, ingredient substitutions, how to tell when something's done, etc. I love that food and healthy cooking has become a bond for us, and I look forward to hearing about new home cooked meals she's made and how they've turned out. It also warms my heart a bit to know that my sweet 15 month old niece now has far better odds of growing up eating more real whole food and less mac-n-cheese. :) Cheers, everybody!

Mari said...

I'm so surprised! That commercial sounds so LOW in all means... low-class, lowering. Ugh. Luckily, here in the middle of Germany, cooking at home is natural and organic products are available everywhere.

SkippyMom said...

Glad to know I wasn't the only one screaming at the TV over that stupid commercial - I am the queen of budget meals and make fried chicken at least once a month because it is cheap and a fav' of my family.

As Brianne did I too taught my sister in law to cook - in fact I needlepointed a place that said "If in doubt 350 degrees." along with the caveat that "Oil does not boil". Seems she tried to recreate my fried chicken and assumed that the oil had to boil first - she almost burned the house down :).

Along with roasts and the fried chicken [finally] I have taught her lasagna and various soups and stews and my fav' - oyster dressing.

Right now my energies are on teaching our girls to cook - although they have mastered a lot of what I make often - and I really don't have anyone to teach to cook, so I won't be entering, but I am going to make the $10 meal deal and blog about it because that commercial just really makes me made. False advertising. :)

Thanks for the post!

SkippyMom said...

**that should say plaque, not place :)

J. M. Strother said...

Maybe they were really BIG biscuits. ;)

I also think it is funny that many folks go out and buy these shinny new "professional chef" stoves they see on these cooking shows, but they don't cook. They buy them as status symbols, not as cooking devices. I think it's pathetic.

Americans love cooking shows. Actually cooking... not so much.

Lisa @ Life with 4! said...

well, i haven't seen that commercial but it sounds silly! Seriously, what kind of chicken are they serving? Gold-plated?!!

I guess an example of anyone being able to cook or someone that I've taught would have to be my kids.
in fact in the last week, my 12 year old son has made 2 batches of cookies, a fruit and jello salad, french toast, and helped me with stirfry and rice tonight!!

My 7 year old makes oatmeal for breakfast, and loves to slice apples up and make different types of fruit dip.... by herself!!

My 10 year old can bake cookies, loves to make homemade brownies (i think he just really likes the batter! ha ha).

I'm thinking that proves that anyone can learn to cook something, at any age!!

Kristin said...

And what about the "gotta have it now" mentality that plagues our country? This probably goes with the idea that more and more people don't know how to cook. This commercial gives lazy and/or busy people an excuse not to cook and feed their family fast "food". I had to read that article and ended up reading all the comments. I especially like the parts where they start figuring in other costs - gas to run the stove, the cost of your time to cook the food, lol. I do the baking and my husband is the meat expert. It works well that way. I'm now trying to convert him to organic :-) Speaking of, some of our most fun in-home date nights have been spent making an elaborate meal (a la Chef Ramsey). And to those with kids - at what age do you start including them in cooking? I have a 2 1/2 year old niece that loves making/building things - maybe start with rice crispy bars? ;-)

SkippyMom said...

You inspired me [again!] so I wrote a post and linked to you about the two meals I made earlier this week and the total for both [with tax] was under $10.

Kristin I like the nitpicking too about the gas/electric used, that cracked me up - until someone mentioned what about the gas used to drive to the KFC? YAY!

For all of our children we started them very young, away from the stove, measuring and mixing while standing on a step stool. They weren't allowed to cook on the stove until each of them was able to touch the back wall above the stove without standing on a stool [I don't know when I came up with that rule, but I wanted their faces far enough away from the burner to make it safe and this rule seemed to work] All my kids can cook and love to do so - with only two left at home I am lucky one is my baker and one is my chef :)

MaskedMan said...

An immensely tempting offer, but everyone I know (who is not a toddler, or a dog) can cook. Most of them cook very well. I have a LARGE family - Our holiday meals are real, honest-to-goodness, feasts!

OK, I can't butcher particularly well, my baking skills are limited, and there are some other useful skills missing, but I can still produce 365 unique, nutritious meals every year - More, really. Quite a bit more.

The US$10 meal challenge is advertising at its most insidious; not only does it sell a product we don't need (though I DO enjoy the occasional piece of KFC or Popeyes - I like the sesoning), it actively discourages people from developing the skills that would make the product superfluous.

kstrating said...

Ha Ha on me.... I'm reading the first entry (didn't bother looking at the poster) & thought - gee that must have been a pain. Sound like my DD's experience... oh wait - the poster IS my DD! Yep, heard about those challenges fairly frequently ;-) On the don't cook theme - Last summer, I offered our young neighbors across the street extra tomato plants I'd started from seed - plant them, grow them, their yours... her answer: not unless they produce pizza ready to pop in the oven, thanks anyway. aarrgghh!


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