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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Pause to Ponder

I subscribe to a trade magazine, Nation's Restaurant News, and in-between the articles on franchises and chain restaurants there occasionally are nuggets of information that give me a pause to ponder. July 10 had a "consumer scorecard" analyzing the number-one reason to eat dinner out or "Why did you eat this meal away from home?" Now there is no mention of where this question was posed so we don't know if it was an Applebee's or Morton's or a little bit of both. Either way it was a depressing and whopping 41% who replied that the reason they were eating out was because they Didn't Want to Cook. The next category was 11% in Other, and 10% logged in twice for Special Occasion/Holiday and Out Shopping. We drift down to 9% who are traveling, 8% who Regularly Eat This Meal Out, a meager 7% On Vacation, 3% with Nothing to Eat at Home, and finally a mysterious category 1% Was Served/Available(so what does that mean?)

How scary that there are so many people on any given night who don't want to cook! Now I do have dry spells. Days when I go the grocery store and see absolutely nothing to intrigue or entice my palate; and there are days that I stare into the leftover laden fridge and pantry both of which are bursting with potential and find nothing to eat. But it doesn't take long to bounce back and sharpen my knives in anticipation of chopping onions and searing meat.

Cooking shows are a hot commodity and recipes abound everywhere. There are still 41% who don't want to cook? I wonder if those people even like what they're eating. What kind of culinary knowledge are they passing on to their children? I was brought up in a "no substitution" household. Other than liver night when my mother condescended to give me a hamburger there were no substitutions. We ate together and ate the same thing. We learned to tolerate what we didn't like and get on with the meal. What are we teaching children when each person at the table is eating something different? Where is the love transmitted from the household cook to the table? How will children learn to set a table if they only receive their silverware rolled in a tight bundle with a napkin?

What kinds of palates are being developed? Restaurants are in the business of providing a product and making money. To do so they must make their product unique, attractive, and tasty. Tasty is not necessarily good for you on a 41% frequency. High salt, sugar, and oils for mouth feel are all part of the restaurant's arsenal to make a memorable product and bring the customer back. For 7% on vacation, or even a 10% out shopping, a casual restaurant meal is o.k. because it is balanced with (hopefully) food actually cooked from scratch at home.

Once a person gives the power to someone else to prepare their food they loose control of their culinary destiny for that night. The household cook has a big responsibility to provide food that will build strong bodies and maintain health. Eating out frequently is hiding from that responsibility. Even when the cook buys processed food to become a "home-cooked meal", they are still making a conscious decision for the family's well-fare. Children need to be taught what are good choices and a menu of chicken fingers and fries is not the answer.

There were certain combinations that my mother put in-front of me that I hated. I couldn't get excited about the meat loaf, frozen lima bean and baked potato dinner but it was there and that was the meal. I was given the power to add ketchup and drown the triad.

The Princess has never had lima beans like I had never had Brussels sprouts before her. The reason? Both my mother who hated Brussels sprouts and I who hated lima beans used our power to ban them from the table.

I have no rocket science answers- Just think before you eat. Whether it's pizza in front of the T.V., an upside down dinner of waffles and sausage at night, or roast chicken, broccoli, and a baked potato; the cook is sending a message to the family when they eat at home. It's not the same as slapping a credit card down on a check.

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