In a society saturated with fast food joints and buffet-style restaurants, cooking for ourselves at home is becoming a lost art.
“Growing up we had home-cooked meals and going out to eat was a rarity and a treat — but that is not the case with today’s generation,” said Tracy Davis, extension agent with Family and Consumer Sciences at the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Rutherford County.
In an attempt to alter this societal trend, the Cooperative Extension on Callahan-Koon Road in Spindale is teaching both beginners and seasoned cooks how to prepare simple, healthy and delicious food as part of the Cook Smart Eat Smart Cooking School.
The class meets once a week throughout the month of September and held its first day of cooking on Thursday afternoon, preparing roasted pork and vegetables and a fruity angel food trifle.
“I’m taking this class because I’m tired of the same old, same old when it comes to cooking,” said participant Judy Baguskis. “I’m looking to learn new things and develop a new enthusiasm about cooking.”
In addition to creating the sweet and savory recipes, Davis teaches class participants various kitchen tips and cooking techniques including which knives to use depending on what foods you are cutting, how to safely cut fruits and vegetables, properly storing and organizing kitchen utensils and tools and ways to make the kitchen a safe, clean working environment.
“I took this class last year and I really enjoyed it, learning new cooking techniques and tips,” said participant Priscilla Downs.
Davis also discussed with class members how to become more efficient cooks.
“I want to create ‘menus’ of meals that I can rotate to help solve the problem of, ‘What am I going to cook tonight?’” said participant Peggy Wells.
During the instructional period of the class, Davis stressed the benefits of cooking at home.
“What is this current generation losing?” Davis asked. “People have lost the skill of how to cook and the sense of self-sufficiency. Furthermore, with this comes an increase in expenditures and a decrease in the appreciation of where our food comes from.”
Cooking for ourselves at home not only helps to save money but also to save time. Packaged and prepared meals cost considerably more than cooking with raw ingredients at home. With the time it takes to drive to a restaurant, place an order, wait for the order and return home to eat the meal, a simple and healthy three-course meal might have been made from scratch at home.
Additionally, cooking at home and including family members or friends in meal preparation is a way to strengthen relationships and share in part of the creative cooking process. Teaching children how to cook and to make healthy food decisions is a skill they will be able to pass on to future generations.
Perhaps most importantly, cooking at home promotes healthier eating habits by allowing cooks to control the amount of salt and oils used in recipes, adjust serving sizes to prevent overeating and prepare meals with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fat and essential vitamins and minerals.
When cooking from scratch, people know exactly what is going into each recipe. The choice to prepare more home-cooked, healthy meals can help prevent weight gain, digestive troubles and allergic reactions.
“From taking this class, I hope people will learn new cooking techniques that are healthier,” Davis said. “I hope they will try new foods and recipes that are simple, quick and healthy.”