Last week, a reader asked me what the big deal was about cooking at home. I’m in the middle of this month of cooking at home, and she’d read my column that expressed why, even as a food writer, I don’t cook every day.
She, and most moms she knew, used to cook at home every night when her kids were little, and nobody made a fuss about it.
That thought might have crossed your mind, too, so I wanted to share what felt like a key component of my reply to her on Facebook.
The life of the working American parent has changed remarkably since I was a kid — and the part that most affects this challenge for me is the culture of hustle in which I am building a career. Pair that with the personal goals of leading a meaningful and multifaceted life that has lots of layers of activities and interests, and cooking, though a joy, often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.
Work consumes more of our time and attention now than it ever has. We live in a society where efficiency and hustle are rewarded far more than being able to say you cooked your own dinner. I’m always trying to stay ahead of the curve, and that means sending emails, staying engaged on social media, editing recipes, writing stories, and reading work-related content after the workday has “ended.”
If I can carve out one free hour a day, I’m inclined to choose a long run, an hour of yoga, an after-school hike with the boys or a happy hour with a friend over making an entirely from-scratch meal, because that’s the return on investment my body and brain need. It might be different for you, but cooking, through pleasurable and relaxing and a literal source of fuel for my body, isn’t a recharging activity for me. Once that last dish is cleaned and drying in the rack, I’m ready for a foot rub, not a load of laundry, a science fair project, a jump-start on the next day’s work or whatever other quotidian tasks need doing.
Despite the challenges, the gratification of pulling a turkey pot pie out of the oven — knowing that you are using up every last piece of that delicious leftover Thanksgiving turkey and also creatively using leftover sweet potato waffle fries from one of your last restaurant meals — is its own special reward.
Finding a cute hedgehog cookie cutter to add a little whimsy to the top layer of crust is just the proverbial gravy.