The Jew And The Carrot

Happy Meals at Home? At Least for Some

By Rhea Yablon Kennedy

  • Print
  • Share Share

In response to a vote to ban toys from Happy Meals, an op-ed in the San Francisco Examiner in early November argued that it’s no biggie. The piece came from Karen Wells, vice president of nutrition and menu strategy for McDonald’s USA. She argues that the boxed meals – consisting mostly of processed foods with fairly high fat, sodium, and sugar content – are a treat for children, not a threat.

“Most children eat the vast majority of their meals at home,” Wells asserts, “not in restaurants.” She goes on to estimate that just a few of the approximately 90 meals kids will eat each month come through a take-out window.

I’m glad that someone views our fast food nation this way. As I noted in an earlier post, Americans spend just 27 minutes a day preparing food, according to Michael Pollan. By one count, McDonald’s has sold more than 20 billion of these meals since it first introduced the concept in 1979, averaging more than 640 million per year.

Even if families do not receive most of their entrees from a server in a visor, it is unlikely that they pull made-from-scratch meals piping hot from the oven. I suspect this is true even in the Jewish community, where food plays a central role in holidays and everyday traditions.

So what do we do about this? Short of a small-plate coup, or everyone becoming a food blogger in love with cooking and writing about it, how do we make this op-ed claim true? Luckily, there are people out there who regularly put healthy, sustainable meals on their tables.

If you are reading this blog, you are likely either one of these passionate cooks or probably know a few. If you’re in the latter group, you might be wondering, how do these people do it? I decided to email a few of them to find out.

Leah Koenig, former editor of The Jew and the Carrot, had a basic theory: “I truly believe that we make time for the things that we love,” she responded, “and for me, that wisdom absolutely applies to cooking.” Koenig, who used to work from home and has recently gone off to a daytime office job, still finds time to welcome the smell of fresh-baked pizza (even if she has to pull some home-made dough from her freezer) or pumpkin bread to the Brooklyn apartment she shares with her husband.

The same idea was true for Gabe Popkin, who lives with three roommates in a house just outside Washington, D.C. The housemates often cook separately but sit down together, or invite a hungry roommate to join a prepared meal. A couple times a month, the roommates organize a house dinner.

For Popkin, cooking and eating at home blends into his social life. So he doesn’t have to choose between spending time with friends and cooking. “I don’t feel as though I [go out of my way to] carve out time for cooking at home,” Popkin wrote in response to my email.

However, some wannabe at-home chefs do not yet have the passion for laboring in the kitchen. First tip to light a fire: Turn off the cooking shows, log out of, and start spending time with a real, live cook.

For Esther James, who lives with her husband in a house on the Jersey shore, offers this wisdom about priorities and pragmatism: “Making a home-cooked lunch in the morning trumps putting on makeup before going to work. I justify it by reminding myself that I can brush my hair in the bathroom at work… but I can’t make lunch there,” she explained.

Another strategy is to cook large amounts of re-usable or adaptable staple ingredients. “I generally try to make meals with core ingredients that I can reuse and change throughout the week,” explained Cara Berman, who lives with her husband in Arlington, Va.

Eating the vast majority of our 90 monthly meals at home is still a dream for most Americans. Many of us will still end up grabbing take-out now and then, and will often opt to meet friends at a restaurant instead of at home for a meal meal. But cooking at home is something we should all strive to find time for. If you’re still struggling to figure out how to make that part of your routine or how to cook, just ask. Chances are, a friend can help.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: San Francisco Examiner, Leah Koenig, Happy Meals

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover!
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.