Thursday, June 10, 2010

Teaching to Cook

The Chicago Tribune ran an article yesterday titled Make this recipe and call me in the morning: Doctors hope to fight obesity by teaching patients how to cook healthfully.  In it Janet Helm explains how Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School is trying to teach doctors how to cook healthfully so they can, in turn, teach their patients to cook healthy meals.  I loved this excerpt: 

The definition of cooking has changed...  Now it's more likely to mean assembling and heating — and probably in the microwave, which has experienced a surge in popularity in the past few years, along with frozen foods.  For the first time, the lasagna eaten at home is more likely to be thawed from the freezer rather than made from scratch. If food doesn't come in a box with instructions, many people are just not sure what to do. 
While they may constantly hear about the virtues of fresh, whole and unprocessed food, and are told to eat more vegetables, whole grains and plant-based meals, people often feel ill-equipped to implement this advice. 
Even with the wildly popular television cooking shows, many people are not active in their own kitchens.  Has cooking become a spectator sport? 

I'm still left wondering, though- whose responsibility is it, really, to teach Americans how to cook?  I have a hard time believing that a program in which doctors diagnose, treat, and give cooking lessons during a ten minute appointment is going to be successful, especially without a sample kitchen in the exam room.  I'm all for treatments that include food over prescriptions and wish more doctors healed that way.  On the other hand, good doctors are a wealth of knowledge in their area of specialty, and I'm not sure I trust one to tell me how to bake a souffle- or even an egg.


So, to whom does the responsibility of teaching cooking skills belong?  


Is it our failing education system?  Home Economics classes have been cut along with music and arts classes in many school districts, or made optional, as it was in my high school.  


Is it the parents who don't cook?  Many individuals who cook would say they learned how growing up.  But in a world in which most families rely on at least two incomes, getting dinner on the table often means quick fixes and little real food preparation.  


Is it the Standard American Diet and the food system that supports it?  As seen in Food, Inc., a family living in poverty can eat fast food for less cost than fresh produce.  


Is it ultimately the responsibility of the individual to figure it out or figure out how to learn?  Sure, we can't all recreate the masterpieces on Top Chef, but following a show like Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals is fairly simple and reasonably healthy- especially when compared to fast food.  An even easier place to start would be Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade.  Cookbooks can be checked out at the local library for free.  There's even a Cooking Basics for Dummies book, with used editions available on Amazon.com for only $1.  


I am in agreement that knowledge is one of the main components holding Americans back in the battle for healthy eating (with cost being the other lead contributor).  I'm all about any program seeking to educate Americans and teach us how to cook healthy meals, especially if we can throw in some lessons on the benefits of local, organic produce.  I think we need to keep looking for a solution, though, and let the physicians do what they do best.  Until we educate the rest of America, they'll be busy dealing with the problems caused by poor diet.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Em! I couldn't agree more.

    ReplyDelete

I love your comments!
-Em

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