The home cooked meal – so often promoted, so often romanticized, so often ignored. The past fifty years has seen a serious decline in meals cooked in the home. In 1950, roughly 25% of US food dollars were spent away from home. Today, that figure has nearly doubled*. The results of this trend have been far-reaching, intertwined, and resoundingly negative. But none of this is news anymore. By now it’s common knowledge that the stuff we cook ourselves is better for us than the stuff we get from elsewhere. Still, questions remain: How do we find the time to cook? How do we find the energy? What would we even make?
Luckily, I’ve got the solution. Actually no, I don’t. But I do have something that can make it a little easier to eat what’s good: I call it the Home Cookin’ Co-Op.
The HCC-O works like this: everyone’s got those couple of go-to dishes. Even if you’re a chronic order-outer, chances are you can still make killer mac ‘n cheese or your grandma’s chicken soup or something like that. So, the trick is to find someone whose signature dish is different from yours and trade. Say you swap some chocolate chip cookies for a plate of lasagna, or baked sweet potatoes for banana bread. You’ve just doubled your home cooked quotient. Now, imagine if you get a couple more friends in on it. Suddenly you’ve got a week’s worth of home cooked meals for the price of a few plates of mac ‘n cheese.
The HCC-O is beautiful for a couple of different reasons. For one, it allows you to get more quality food than you’d otherwise be able to. But also, it opens your mind and palate to dishes that might not otherwise be on your radar. Would I ever think to make borscht myself? Probably not. But would I swap some broccoli rabe for a pint of someone’s secret family recipe? In a heartbeat.
I’ve currently just got one HCC-O going with Laura. I’m making the pumpkin puree and roasted carrots and she’s keeping me stocked with her grandma’s baked apples and (the aforementioned) carrot soup. The apples (written about here on her fantastic blog) are perfect to keep stocked in the fridge: pre-baked, they just need a quick zap in the microwave to be absolutely delicious. And thanks to Pumpkin Fridays, I’ve got more pumpkin puree than I know what to do with anyway. The trade is a total win-win.
I’m serious when I recommend starting up your own HCC-O. Just figure out what you can cook up and see what it will go for on the market. It will make you happier, healthier, and more culinarily stimulated.
And if you’ve got anything good, I’m always willing to trade.