Simple solutions – cook.

Cooking gave us the meal and the meal gave us civilization. And that’s what we’re now blithely giving up. Forty-six percent of meals in America are now eaten alone.

via There are health and social benefits to cooking – Food & dining – The Boston Globe.

I love to cook. One of the things I enjoy most in life is building a nice meal for others to enjoy with me. I have been this way since I was pretty young. I started cooking for myself when I was in high school, and my fascination with making food, and the magic and chemistry involved in combining ingredients into something greater than the constituent parts provides me with a real jolt of joy.

Food is important. Our parents were told “You are what you eat” as children, but for some reason they decided this was one of the many bits of wisdom handed down from their parents that they considered not a gift but a burden, and chose not to pass down to us. That’s a shame because it’s not just a simple lesson, it’s true. Food is what we’re made of. It’s also the fuel that feeds the fire in our internal engines and allows us to do things. The better quality the raw material and fuel, the better our bodies function. If you build a car from wonky parts and put watered down or corrupted fuel in the tank that’s a vehicle that won’t get very far, or go very fast.

Beyond that, my generation was short-changed the experience of family meals. I consider it a point of pride that when I read Matilda to my daughter recently she was utterly appalled by the Wormwood family, who ate their meals from trays in front of a blaring TV.

As a young man I was a huge fan of Jeff Smith and his Frugal Gourmet TV series on PBS. Smith’s career ended in controversy, but the content of his shows was solid gold. Smith repeatedly framed the meals he was preparing in the context of their cultural significance, and peppered his stories about those meals with historical details and trivia that helped viewers to understand that meals were not just a refueling stop. For all cultures sitting down to eat together was a significant social activity, sometimes even a political activity.

So it ought not surprise anyone that I completely agree with Michael Pollan that the value of shared meals, the value of preparing food for each other, goes well beyond the commonly perceived financial cost, or the incorrectly assumed time cost.

I have a theory. All of the plights afflicting humanity in this modern world can be traced to human beings behaving in ways that are fundamentally contrary to normal, natural human behavior. One wonders just how many social, health or other problems might be eliminated if most people in the US would just cook their own food and sit down and eat it together like civilized human beings.

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