Monday, January 26, 2009

Cooking connects you to your food and protects your health

After two months of effort, I published my newest website last night. I call it Recipe River with the motto "a good life flows from cooking food." It is a recipes website with supplemental articles meant to help people start cooking more of their own food. Cooking is an important skill that has slid off the plates of many people's lives. Cooking your own food the majority of the time is so important because it allows you to know what ingredients you are using and increases the likelihood that you will prepare proper portion sizes. Food from restaurants and fast food restaurants tends to have portions that are way too large and the fat and sugar contents are generally larger as well.

I also believe that cooking causes you to appreciate your food more because you have been involved in the preparation. You put in an effort and get a reward. This is in contrast to slapping down some cash, getting some food, and shoveling it into your mouth without a thought of where it came from or what exactly it is. Being able to cook also breeds a sense of independence and competence. When you are hungry, you know what to do. If you don't know how to cook, then all you can do is look to others to provide for you.

Our society has many barriers that discourage people from cooking. Long work hours and commute times make people think they don't have time to cook. An overabundance of fast food outlets, especially in low income neighborhoods, entice people with convenient albeit unhealthy food. Many people simply don't know how to cook anymore. Schools have cut basic home economics classes and many young people are coming out of families where their parents did not cook.

My goals at Recipe River are to present solutions to these common societal problems by:

Providing recipes for easy dishes that use readily available ingredients.

Informing people about the bad health effects associated with not cooking your food.

Emphasizing the fact that cooking does not really need to take up that much of your time.

I even tackle the issue of single people who are notorious for not cooking very much. I understand that it's hard to cook for just yourself, but once upon a time I was single too, and I cooked my dinner and packed my lunches to bring to work far more often than I ate out. I could not afford to eat out all the time, and I was always amazed to see my co-workers buying their take out lunches every day. What a waste of cash that could have been spent on something nice. (For advice for singles, see my article: Overcoming cooking challenges for single people)

Now for my main point at Recipe River which concerns the subject of obesity. Considered an epidemic at this point, obesity is researched from many different angles, and data are starting to come in that reveal two things:

1. People who cook most of their own meals have a lower incidence of obesity.
2. People who do not cook most of their own meals have a higher incidence of obesity.

Although research on the cooking angle is only beginning, cooking or not cooking is emerging as a greater indicator of obesity than education or ethnicity or income level. (See my article: Not cooking your own food is a recipe for obesity)

I had always suspected this to be the case. To be honest I have some fat friends, who of course lament their condition. I have also noticed that they frequently eat out and I have pointed out to them how unhealthy it is to eat restaurant food so much. These same friends don't even know how to cook. Coincidence? Apparently not.

As for Recipe River, I intend it to become a reference website for all types of recipes for both experienced cooks and novices. It has bread recipes, dessert recipes, main dish recipes, and side dish recipes. I will be adding recipes regularly, which should be easy because I cook constantly and am always looking over new recipes. In the recipes I write, I also try to be clear about how to do certain tasks because I realize that some people don't automatically understand every cooking term.

Although I've been preachy about cooking, I grant that everyone needs to go to restaurants sometimes. I do so myself, but it is important to limit your restaurant use for the sake of your health (and your wallet). If you cook more of your meals, you can save your money and go out someplace nice once in a while.

Before you get hungry again, paddle your canoe over to Recipe River and get cooking.