Last night I stumbled upon a “Netflix Original” documentary called Cooked, wherein “a mouth-watering tour of cooking traditions around the world, best-selling author Michael Pollan explores the joys and power of preparing food.”
According to Netflix, this is a cerebral four-part documentary. Just like any other documentary, I don’t agree with every statement the narrator makes in the episodes I’ve watched thus far. That being said, I love the overall messages: cook; use real food; use the best ingredients you can afford; cook for others.
The primary refrain that sticks out to me is from the second episode - this refrain being that food manufacturers are in the business to sell as much food as possible at the highest profit. This is an especially true statement when looking at publicly owned companies because it is their legal duty to make the highest profit for their shareholders.
(I didn’t understand what a “hostile takeover” was from economics class or from watching Pretty Woman. Instead, I learned what it meant by following the reporting when Ben & Jerry’s was purchased by Unilever and when Cadburry’s was purchased by Kraft. These two companies were in the business to do more than make money – they had missions to use high quality, local ingredients and/or to treat their employees well – but the tax codes at the time did not allow for this. They were sold to the highest bidder because they had stockholders who voted to make more money.)
So why is that important? It’s important because food manufacturers are not obligated to make food that nourishes our bodies. The job of food manufacturers is to make money.
Enter: all the commercials that highlight the torturous, exhausting, unpleasant difficulty that is cooking versus the ease of letting others cook for us. Follow that by cheap, highly processed ingredients on boxes that would never be found in a home kitchen.
Americans spend less time cooking than any other nation in the world. We spend, on average, 30 minutes a day cooking – which means that we’re eating processed/manufactured foods, fast foods, and food from restaurants when we’re not cooking.
When we’re not cooking, we’re not in control of what ingredients are used and in what quantities. This has led to the obesity and health issues that inspired the Delta Garden Study and Arkansas Grow Healthy Study that Emily English was a part of.
Now, there are folks working hard through farm-to-school, school garden, Cooking Matters, and other programs to try to reverse the damage a few generations of departing from cooking has done to our health.
My goals with this column are very much along those lines – to inspire folks to cook more, to try new ingredients, to consider buying local, and to use the best quality ingredients that you can afford at the moment.
So this week, I offer a few recipes that I made with love for others: a savory breakfast pudding, rosemary garlic pork steaks, beaverfork sweet potato wedges, and a farmers’ market stew. Each goody with a farm name referenced was acquired through Conway Locally Grown (conway.locallygrown.net) and the recipes range from low to medium effort levels.
See attached recipes in "related stories" of this article!