Americans aren’t cooking as much as we used to: in 2012, 43% of American food dollars were spent outside our homes.  A recent study conducted at North Carolina State University indicated that to many of those surveyed, the “feel-good benefits of home cooking outweigh its burdens.”

In an important thought piece written for Civil Eats, Kim O’Donnel (@kimodonnel) explores the reasons behind this trend, and to offer suggestions on how we might encourage more people to cook.

Why aren’t Americans cooking? Reasons include a lack of time, money…and know-how. Many of us simply don’t know how to cook. And that’s important.

“Part of cooking is stumbling, even if you dutifully follow the directions. In a time-crunched world that emphasizes perfection and performance, that’s a risk many of us don’t want to take.”

O’Donnel considers history and larger cultural themes, touching upon Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Book and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. She rolls the discussion back to the present, presenting multiple perspectives about the pros and cons of home cooking, and comes to a startling conclusion: everyone has a valid point.

O’Donnel has this to say about the role of cooking in the food movement:

If you believe in urban gardening, farmers’ markets, and investing in local economies, all of which has brought food to the front burner of our collective consciousness over the past 15 years–then cooking–even just once a week–must be part of the equation.

O’Donnel offers some terrific ideas on how we might encourage a cooking ethos in the nation. “Embark incrementally” is one of my favorites.  And perhaps the most simple and important thing we could each do:

“If you know how to cook, teach someone who doesn’t.”

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