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Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, Watching Mom’s Famous Meatloaf Roll Away

by Hannah Binder

Point Blank Perspective is a blog addressing common places, events, and experiences that we encounter in life.  These are described in a column-style with a blunt and one hundred percent upfront attitude. 

I read an article the other day about statistics concerning Americans and the time they spend in the kitchen.  It said that the average American spends roughly 30 minutes a day cooking. That may sound like a reasonable amount of time until I ask you to estimate how much time you spend a day watching tv, on social media, in the car, on the phone, doing anything else that doesn’t demand an ounce of culinary skills or attention to what you are putting inside your bodies. What about those people willing to spend an hour or two watching Food Network while they wait for their takeout to arrive?  Yes, I’m one of the first to admit the enjoyment I find in watching Worst Cooks in America while I boast my abilities to in fact boil potatoes and know the difference between a zucchini and a cucumber, but how many of you fellow cooking show fans can confidently assert that you spend just as much time, if not more, cooking in your own kitchen?

It’s a bit startling, the realization of just how distanced so many of us are from the act of cooking.  We want to feel educated about this magical, stainless steel land of the competent cook, which can feel as unreachable as that of those able to understand poetry, but we don’t want to commit the time to actually learn, practice, and pass down. We would rather stand around at the counter-side and open up some packaged foods marked ‘low calorie’ or ‘lite!’.  

Americans are naturally drawn to the idea of cooking and food.  It’s nearly impossible to get through even a 20 minute episode of your favorite show and not witness an important exchange housed in the kitchen.  Friends, one of the most beloved tv shows, centers around places where food is prepared and consumed.  Even when the gang isn’t gathered around that cheery yellow table, while Monica miraculously finds the ingredients within her teal cupboards to whip up a three course meal, they are most often found at the coffee shop.  Our brains are chalk-full of references to kitchens on some of our favorite shows (Full House, The Brady Bunch, Family Matters, Mad Men) and we might even be able to navigate a Williams Sonoma catalogue but if you ask people to cook their five favorite recipes by heart, more than you would ever hope probably couldn’t accomplish this.  

Cooking was once a labour of love, but now it is regarded as an inconvenience.  As a kid, I spent most of my childhood in the kitchen. I have countless memories of perching on the counter, helping my mom roll out cookies, or teetering on a step stool so that I could help her make fudge, pea soup, manicotti. The reason that Christmas is my favorite holiday is not because of the gifts, withdrawing the decorations that have survived for 30 years from their Rubbermaid containers, even the tradition of selecting a tree–though scaring most other holiday seasoners away with the sheer raucous of my family is entertaining. It’s because my family spends 85% of the holiday season in the kitchen, elbow deep in fifteen different types of baked goods that we will sample–of course–and deliver to our friends and other family members. I look forward to this baking marathon, not a hasty sprint which would, yes, require less of a time commitment but surely detract from the full joy I acquire from it, every single year.

Cooking is not supposed to be a necessity, it’s supposed to be a way to pass down traditions as well as harbor a connection between generations. How did we get from always knowing that someone you knew was in the kitchen with Dinah to looking up directions on how to boil rice? It was once believed that the quickest way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, though I’m a firm believer that this should be modified to read ‘anyone’s heart’–who doesn’t love a good Spaghetti Carbonara?–but are we really so sure of the fidelity of this statement anymore?

Why are so many of us ok with letting the recipes Mom and Grandma adjusted to perfection over years of trials rot away in a box in the attic labeled ‘Donate’? Let’s think like Walter White. Everyone together, now: let’s cook.

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