I received an invitation today from Mark Hyman, MD, author of The Blood Sugar Solution to help him “change the future of food” . On February 26 he is publishing The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook, version 2013. (There is a 2006 version of The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook I found on Amazon, and I don’t quite know the difference) He shares that:
“The consumption of industrial fast and processed foods is driving our
epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease that now affects EVERY other American.
We need a food and cooking revolution to change this!”
His answer is simple enough: we all need to cook more. I think that is mostly true, but there is much more to this story and I told him so in a return email. Here is my response:
Dear Dr. Hyman,
I admire your efforts, but there is something disingenuous in asking people to cook more when so much is already asked of their time and historically we have never valued the time and energy to purchase, prepare and eat food as daily sustenance. Cooking and shopping have been mostly considered women’s work, something that is supposed to just happen despite the radical changes in how women live their lives since the 1900’s when only 2% of food was eaten outside of the home (Dr. Hyman’s quote, not mine).
The shift from cooking to “assembling” is a result of the pressures and expectations of our society, not just a cause of poor health. I prepare most of my family meals from scratch and shop primarily at farmer’s markets. It is an enormous task, taking hours every day. My family prepares food to take to school and the office from whole foods purchased and prepared at home. I feel lucky to have the time and flexibility to make this happen. I’m not sure the infrastructure is in place for everyone to access the time and energy it takes to eat this close to the earth.
WHAT SUPPORT IS NEEDED FOR PEOPLE START COOKING MORE?
People need support to cook more. That means employers need to honor a reasonable work day. People need to limit themselves to reasonable commutes. Schools need to limit students to reasonable homework and families need to push back on the ridiculous expectations of extracurricular activities that mean no one is home for dinner– and rarely home to enjoy family meals on the weekend. There needs to be a way for people to have the time and energy to engage with their families while still being valued in the workplace. No one should have to fear losing a job because they attempt to live a balanced life. Too many people need to learn how to cook because their parents were too busy or unable to teach them.
While I am all for cooking more, I’m not sure what your answer is for all those folks who don’t like to cook in the first place. It is likely that restaurants–even fast food establishments– serve more whole food, wonderfully prepared, than what people throw together for their “meal” at home when they are not ready, willing or able to cook for themselves. But that is another letter….
SURVEY YOUR COLLEAGUES
Check out the status of your colleagues. People working in the medical field are known for long hours with the same challenges eating well as people working in other demanding careers. But health care providers are supposed to know better. How many shop for their own food and prepare their breakfasts, lunches and dinners from scratch working typical 40+ hour work weeks?
On the other end of the spectrum, how many people work two jobs just to pay rent and get food on the table? Too many people in this country live below the poverty level despite working long hours. And what about all the working middle class and single parents who don’t enjoy the privilege of help at home and juggle everything on their own? The challenge of cooking more is a much bigger issue than just cooking more.
You have a strong platform. Start the conversation, raise awareness. Cooking is an honorable goal, but it is the back end of the conversation. I am hoping for a bit of honesty and candid conversation about what we are really asking people to do—and then ask all stakeholders to step up and support the effort. Let’s encourage everyone to cook more. More importantly, let’s push for a cultural environment that values food–and everything it takes to purchase, prepare and eat food– in its rightful place.
Bonnie Y. Modugno, MS, RD