The latest research from the consumer research organisation Kantar Worldpanel outlined on Radio 4’s You and Yours programme yesterday, made for grim listening. Cooking from scratch is now at its lowest level for 20 years. They estimate that only 10% of meals cooked at home are completely from scratch, and that 80% contain some form of ready-made ingredient. Cooking is rapidly becoming a hobby, an occasional activity rather than a routine part of daily life.
What is extraordinary is that glossy cookery shows have never been more popular. Whether it’s the Hemsley Sisters spiralising, Jamie chucking together a curry or Mary Berry turning out a perfectly baked pie, we lap them all up. Cookery shows and recipe books have become a kind of culinary pornography, something we fantasise about but never imagine we can actually achieve. They are so heavily stylised (most featuring said chef surrounded by a gaggle of beautiful and shiny family and friends, all sitting down to a perfectly arranged feast at a ”just the right side of rustic” dining table, which in reality has been titivated and tweaked for hours on end by an army of stylists.) We gorge on it knowing it can never be a reality, so we don’t even bother to attempt it.
The most common excuse for not cooking from scratch is always a lack of time. According to Kantar the problem is now we don’t even have time to decide what to cook, let alone actually cook it. But the thing is that cooking is a bit like exercise. Initially it feels like a massive chore, but after a while you start to feel the benefits, and even enjoy it. Eventually it becomes an essential part of your life, so much so that you don’t feel right unless you do it. And like exercise, you know that ultimately cooking from scratch most (not all) of the time is better for you. So don’t be a casual observer, do yourself a favour and devote the half hour you would have spent on the sofa watching great food on television to making great food at home. And then go for a run… Kidding!