The Decline of Home Cooked Meals?

When people find out that the Lawyer’s boyfriend is the Chef, their response is always, “Oh, you’re so lucky! You must have such delicious meals waiting for you when you get home every night.” And people are right in thinking that when the Chef cooks at home it is delicious….but the reality is that the Chef (and all chefs for that matter) doesn’t cook that much at home.  Most nights, the Chef is at work when the Lawyer gets home. And on nights when the Chef is home, cooking is sometimes the last thing he wants to do.

So most nights, the Lawyer gets home from work and is tasked with figuring out what to make with the groceries in the fridge.  And then the real work of actually creating something delicious for dinner begins. That task can be onerous. There’s chopping, and sautéing, and pureeing.  And sometimes the Lawyer is so hungry and she lacks the patience required to prepare a meal. And sometimes the Lawyer is just tired and wants to curl up on the couch with a glass of wine while she binge watches House of Cards or some other tv show. Sometimes the pull of food delivery from Postmates or GrubHub or Seamless is just too strong.

The rational logical side of the Lawyer thinks of all the reasons she shouldn’t order delivery:

  • It’s healthier to make food at home and the Lawyer is trying to lose some weight
  • The Lawyer and the Chef are on a budget and are trying to rein in their spending
  • The Lawyer actually enjoys cooking
  • The delivery services still take about an hour and it would be possible to cook a home cooked meal in that time

But despite all the rationalization, sometimes the Lawyer succumbs to the temptation and orders delivery.  And sometimes ordering delivery happens more times than it should (like last winter when the Lawyer was on a first name basis with a local Chinese food – but hey, when you’re studying for a Bar exam and there is a polar vortex outside it is 100% OK to order Chinese food at least once a week).

The Lawyer is not alone in her use of food delivery services. The Lawyer knows that many of her friends frequently choose delivery or takeout over cooking at home. In fact, one of the Lawyer’s friends operates on nothing but takeout and delivery.  So it came as no surprise to the Lawyer, when the Washington Post published an interesting piece today on the slow death of the home-cooked meal.

According to the article, “Less than 60 percent of suppers served at home were actually cooked at home last year. Only 30 years ago, the percentage was closer to 75 percent.” The Washington Post notes that a large part of the decline is due to a significant decline in the amount of time that women spend cooking. According to the Washington Post:

The reasons for the slow death of cooking in this country are many, but a few stand out. For one, women, who traditionally have carried the brunt of the cooking load, are working more, and therefore spending less time at home cooking. In 2008, women spent 66 minutes per day cooking, almost 50 minutes fewer than in the 1960s, when they spent upwards of 112 minutes on average. Men, by comparison, are actually spending a bit more time at the stove, albeit only a meager 8 minutes more. So men have hardly made up the difference.

It seems like despite the strides that women have made in entering and killing it in the workforce, women are still not making strides in getting men to take on a more equal share of household responsibilities.  This is not to generalize and to suggest that all men are shirking from their share of household responsibilities (so relax all who have joined the #notallmen campaign). There are sometimes complexities at work beyond gender stereotypes and norms. Case in point, the Chef’s work schedule is the reason he’s unable to share in as much of the cooking responsibilities at the Lawyer and the Chef household. And that’s not to suggest he doesn’t try to help where he can (there have been a number of occasions where the Chef has thoughtfully put something in the Crockpot so that there is dinner waiting for the Lawyer when she gets home).

And there are many other factors at play here. As a society we’ve become more acclimated to instant gratification. We also frequently work more hours and we are always connected.  And let’s not forget about the influence of marketing – there’s a lot of money to be made by restaurants and food delivery services and grocery stores with ready-made meals. But in the spirit of Women’s History Month, let’s open up a dialogue about how we can further promote women’s equality with a more even distribution of the share of household responsibilities.

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