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Cookery to Save Civilization

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Progress in civilization has been accompanied by progress in cookery.

Fannie Farmer, The Boston Cooking-School Book, 1896

 

The purpose of this blog is to share one of my favorite recipes, chicken spaghetti sauce, in Jane Remington’s new cookbook, The Yeast Free Kitchen II, which I wrote about in my last post. As I organized my thoughts, however, I went kind of cosmic.

The heart of this book is the kitchen, and there was a time when the kitchen was the heart of the home. But I began to wonder: How much real cooking goes on in the American home today? How often do families sit down and share meals together? And has cookery become mostly microwavery?

If so, this is probably due in part to a major cultural change afoot. I’m referring to the fact that so many women have become important family breadwinners–in 40% of all households, in fact, with children under the age of 18. (Source: Pew Research Center) This percentage will probably rise because educational attainment for females is also rising. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that between 2014 and 2025, female enrollment in higher education will increase by 17% compared to 11% for male enrollment.

So as women move ever more forcefully into the economic mainstream, it seems that the kitchen will continue to decline in importance. It’s obvious that after a long day at work, few women will have the energy to rustle up a delicious homemade dinner. The more convenient alternatives are seasoned with “eat more of me” messages that will probably continue to fuel rising obesity rates. The journal, Jama Internal Medicine, reported in 2015 that 75 % of men and 67 % of women ages 25 and older are now overweight and obese. This is also true of nearly 30% of high school students.

I’m not blaming women for this trend, but it seems important that we take stock of what’s happening and move to adapt. Another quote comes to mind, this one by writer Dolores Curran: “Healthy families are our greatest national resource.” Of course the term “healthy” is complex, but physically healthy is on my radar at this moment, and obesity leads to very costly medical problems.

Dinner for Threshers by Grant Wood 1934

Dinner for Threshers by Grant Wood 1934

So what do we do? If healthy families are a national goal, should provision for such be worked into our educational system? Now I’m thinking of our nine-month school year. (I warned you that I went cosmic.) This was established early in our history when all hands needed to be on the farm or ranch to help with summer duties. That is no longer the case. And these short days and terms leave female breadwinners with the costly and complicated responsibility of organizing daycare and transportation.

As they move into political offices–another inevitable trend–women will probably begin to work for change that supports their new role in society. And maybe the educational experience could be lengthened and enriched with more exercise and fun classes–like learning about finances and nutrition and cooking, for example–to supplement the mind-numbing focus on testing.

How did I get to this point? When I went shopping for ingredients for the spaghetti sauce for a family of four, I kept my receipt. I also bought lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, and an avocado for the salad, and the total (not including cost of spices) was $12.84 or $3.21 per person. Just try beating that at a convenient eatery, and this is a healthy meal that will not contribute to the obesity epidemic. Cooking Jane’s way is not only healthy, it’s good for the budget.

Cookery provides a lot of opportunity also for learning math–as in the cost of things, measurements, comparisons with eating out, etc. And students studying this would be taking into the evolving family valuable information about how to save money as well as eat better. And they might create healthier families when they grow up.

As I told you, I’m on Jane’s yeast-free diet, and I guess eating so well has made me imaginative. Now I need to ground myself by writing up the recipe. And please note that the simmer time for the sauce would allow the cook to detour to some screen or other (very important) before gathering the family for a very, very delicious dinner.

 

Chicken Spaghetti Sauce

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil                                      8 oz. tomato sauce

½ cup onion, chopped                                                 2 cups tomatoes

2 cloves garlic, chopped                                               1 ½ tsp. salt

1 lb. uncooked ground chicken or turkey                 1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. garlic powder                                                       1 tsp. dried basil

1 T parsley flakes                                                           1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 bay leaf                                                                         1 lb. box spaghetti

 

 

Directions:

  1. In large skillet, cook oil, onions, and garlic for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in chicken and garlic powder and brown slightly.
  3. Add bay leaf, parsley, tomato sauce, tomatoes, salt, oregano, basil, and pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 hr.
  4. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes or until desired consistency.
  5. Remove bay leaf and spoon over cooked spaghetti.

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to “Cookery to Save Civilization”

  1. Maggie

    Your article is so appropriate on every point. It is truly sad/unfortunate that families no longer have the time, energy, inclination or whatever to sit around the table to eat. Many of us have the recollection of being sent from the dinner table for giggling..
    Your recipe looks Yummy…..what a delicious sounding recipe though it looks like you missed an ingredient on the right side either the canned tomatoes or the tomato sauce but perhaps I am not reading it correctly..