What and how you eat
    The Food Pyramid
    Counting calories: a key to diet literacy
    Your activity level
    The best form of exercise
    Chart your weight
    Sustainable agriculture
    Medical condition
    On hunger
    On eating out
    On cooking
    On addiction
    Food as love
    Spiritual Vegetarianism
    On temptation and resolve
    Six months report
    Dieting as meditation
 Grapevine Revisited
 Christmas Letter

This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.

The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.

On cooking

For many reasons, preparing your own food for you and your family gives you the best chance for eating healthy. Of course, there are lots of pre-packaged foods that can just be popped into the oven: pizza, burgers, frozen dinners, the freezer section of the supermarked is full of this stuff. But I'm talking about fixing something to eat from the good stuff that will make us healthy: fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, healthy vegetable oil, that kind of stuff.

So why don't we cook, then?

If you or someone in your home isn't cooking your food, there are basically just a few reasons why. I've heard them all, and I'm sure I'd hear one or more of them again if I talked to you.

  1. We're all too busy. This is the number one reason who people don't cook. They BELIEVE that they are too busy.
  2. It takes too LONG. I'm hungry when I get home from work. And I'm tired, too.
  3. I don't know how to cook.
  4. I don't like to cook.
  5. I'm not a good cook.
  6. I never have the right ingredients that I want when I need them.
  7. My kids won't eat what I fix.
  8. It's too expensive to cook, because so much of it spoils before I get to it.
  9. I don't have the right cooking equipment.
  10. Mind your own business!

I am being rather pushy, but here's why I cook

  1. I am not too busy too cook, because I make the time. I shop weekly, and I plan to buy almost all of the things I need on the weekend. My cooking time per day averages about 1 hour, total. That is making the food and putting it on the table to eat. I'd say about half of our food at home is made from scratch, and half is prepared, like bread, an occasional can of soup, and rarely, a frozen prepared dish.
  2. I've been retired for a few months now, but when I worked, I made simple meals during the week. If I was just too tired, then I did eat out on occasion. Here are some tricks. a) Put oatmeal (and dried fruit and nuts) in the crockpot on low before you go to bed. When You get up, it is ready. Don't forget to put water in the crockpot when it is empty, or you will scrape forever to get it clean. b) For lunch, pack a sandwich, but use whole grain bread. Put on some lettuce and tomato for veggies. If you made an extra chicken breast last night for supper, that can go on the sandwich. c) Number one secret for making quick dinners: Make 9 x 13 inch one dish meals from fresh ingredients, then eat it over several meals or freeze it. Some things freeze better than others. Add a fresh salad or veggie. Food will keep in a refrigerater for a few days, especially if it was cooked in the oven to the right temperature.
  3. Well, I DO know how to cook. My mom and my dad both cooked. If you can read a a map, you can cook. Get a good simple recipe book and follow the directions. After a while, you catch on. You'll find yourself going back again and again to a few favorite recipes that your family really likes. Better than that, you'll have complete control over what you eat. You'll learn what makes food taste good and bad. You will better appreciate your food.
  4. Ok, sometimes, I don't want to cook on a given evening. So that's the time to go out for food or bring it in. But I do like to cook, generally. It's actually quite fun. And it's very rewarding. I have friends who just don't cook. So they don't get invited out to dinner very much, because they can never return the favor for their friends. When they get invited to potlucks, they bring a tub of supermarket slaw or potato salad. Well, that will do. But when I take a dish to a potluck, people watch to see where I put it. They WANT to eat it. It is one way that I show that I care about people. I do not think that my life is so important or so busy or so filled with trouble that I can't find the time to occasionally put a good dish of food before my friends.
  5. I'm a good cook. But I got that way with practice and determination. And, I do have my failures. These days, they're few and far between. I have met some people that truly aren't good cooks. However, I assure you that if you are of average intelligence and determination, you can be a good cook if you want to. It is simply a choice you make.
  6. It's true that if you cook from recipies that you will occasionally lack some of the right ingredients. So I'm going to give you four secrets to overcoming this problem. 1) Keep basic ingredients on hand. There are only a few basic ingredients. 2) Learn to substitute. Again, to do this, read your cookbook, or buy one that has a chapter on substituting ingredients. 3) Learn to be creative. If you just cook for a while and note what you like, you will be able to assemble recipes that are close to the one you're trying to make, but it will be your own creative version. 4) You have to plan!
  7. Yes, I agree this is an enormous problem. Kids want coke and juice and pizza and burgers and now look what we are. We're in a "plague of obesity." For decades we've whined the litany, "My kids just won't try anything new, or won't eat veggies. Where does this come from? It comes from our BELIEF that we don't have the time or the determination to guide our children into healthy eating. Yes it is a problem. In fact, it is part of YOUR JOB as a parent. I'll grant you there is an OCCASIONAL kid (we're talking one in ten or twenty here) who absolutely is intractible, and for whom shaping or forcing eating does more harm than good. But these kids are relatively uncommon. Most kids are con artists when it comes to getting what they want, and we're the stupes who fall for their schemes. Read a book (or two) on discipline.
  8. Ha, I've got you there. If you REALLY learn to cook, you will cut your food bill in half, or if you eat in more than you eat out, you will cut it by two thirds. One of the little games I play now and then when I make a good meal at home is to see how much it would have probably cost at my favorite restaurant. (My dad taught me how to estimate, a dying skill.) By the time you figure out how many meals you actually get in a homemade recipe, it almost always turns out to cost from between 5 and 6 times as much in a restaurant as what your ingredients cost. And that's not counting the tip. If your ingredients are spoiling before you get to them, you are a) not planning carefully, and b) not disciplining yourself to cook. If your leftovers are spoiling, then a) you're not eating them before they spoil, or b) you're not freezing them before they spoil.
  9. Fancy pots and pans are nice to have. All you really need is two sizes of sauce pans and two sizes of saute pans. I am still using my Revere Ware sauce pans that I bought 40 years ago. Really. They are just as good as the day I bought them. A teflon coated pan is sometimes useful, but beware teflon. $100 to $200 will get you started on a lifetime of cooking.
  10. Did you really read this far?? Amazing. Ok, I will. I will mind my own business. Sorry.