You call THAT home cooking?

From In the Kitchen with Bossygirl archives.

Wow, Mom, that looks amazing!” These were Sophia’s exact words when she saw her dinner plate last night. And what amazing dinner elicited such unbridled enthusiasm from such a small diner? Grilled Coleman uncured beef hot dogs (these really are amazing!), grilled corn on the cob (wrapped in foil with butter and salt) and sautéed baby spinach with garlic. And, until I heard her response, I never in a million years would have chosen to blog about this meal, because it would never make the cut.

The cut? When I started this blog, I decided that I would only write about meals cooked “from scratch.” To me, this had a very clear definition: buy a bunch of ingredients, chop them up, cook them up, serve them up. Very little if anything pre-made or packaged. I assumed, too, that this is how the rest of the world would define home cooking. So, last night’s dinner, while delicious, didn’t qualify as homemade to me. Yes, I shucked, buttered and salted corn, minced garlic and sautéed it with baby spinach, but this is unremarkable. In fact, most of the gaps between dates on my blog are either because we’re eating leftovers or because we’re having meals like last night’s (or, if I’m really lucky, we’re out). But Sophia’s enthusiasm, and a recent article in The New York Times, got me to thinking.

Michael Pollan, who wrote In Defense of Food, had a recent piece in the Times inspired by Julie & Julia and the rising popularity of food television. The article is long, and I certainly have no intention of summarizing it, but he did make one interesting point that stuck with me. He has a long conversation with a food-marketing researcher, Harry Belzer, about what people today consider “cooking.” According to Belzer, most people consider any assembling of ingredients to be cooking from scratch. Even just washing a head of lettuce and pouring bottle dressing on it. When Pollan tried to press Belzer on the number of people who still really cook from scratch, he learned that they don’t track that degree of home cooking because so few people actually do it. Ouch!

I was fascinated to find that my definition of home cooking was a) in line with Pollans and b) a less and less common activity. It validated for me my original intention in starting this blog, to capture the details of real homemade meals, and to celebrate the outcome of my sometimes considerable efforts to feed my family well.

But now, Sophia has me thinking. Hot dogs, corn, sautéed spinach. Does this a home-cooked meal make?