My response to; Leslie Hatfield: Let's Get Cooking: On Julia, and Pollan, and Feminism and Food, The Huffington Post, August 6, 2009 , provides an opportunity to talk about something that makes sense to me. How we have lost the art of "community dining" in this country. And, how we have lost a connection to the best home cooks in our community by making it illegal for their neighbors to pay them for what they do so well. There are a lot of great cooks in my neighborhood. They make terrific, wholesome home cooked meals just about every night of the week. I would love a way to establish a business relationship with these cooks that is public, and legal, whereby, I eatin or take out a meal to from their home to mine to feed my family. It would be convenient, safe and provide an income to them and a great service to me.
Leslie this is a great article! I really enjoyed, as a male that cooks 99% of the meals for family of four and therefore can readily identify with the time constraints of producing wholesome, home cooked meals, your point that this shouldn't be just about wives and mothers spending time cooking. How to cook, and cook well, is really something that everyone should know how to do regardless of sex.
These sentences really jumped out at me as so close to what could be a solution:
"Potlucks, eat-ins, taking turns hosting meals with your neighbor or extended family, all of these could help lighten the load for home chefs, with the added benefit of enhancing those relationships. After all, good food is best enjoyed with company."
I believe we need to really turn on its head how food is prepared and served in our communities. There are fabulous home cooks throughout this country that love and enjoy preparing home cooked meals. Why is it that they can not do what they love, and do it well, right in their homes, and make a business out of it? When I travelled to Costa Rico as a young man upon entering a new town I would ask in broken Spanish where the nearest restaurant was located. I was invariable pointed to the local family that cooked for the entire neighborhood for a modest price.
Likewise, why is it when Cuba experimented with capitalism their first trial was to allow home cooks to establish small restaurants? Has our food policy and regulations obfuscated our view to such a degree that we can not recognize simple, local solutions right before our eyes? I propose that one way around regulation would be for home cooks to sell entertainment (that's probably regulated too) where people would gather in local homes on informal drop in basis, share a meal and be asked to recite a poem, listen to music, tell a story, or participate or watch some form of "entertainment" for which they would pay the host a fee. The meal would be complimentary. And take out should be an option.
The more I see problems with our food system in this country the more I think we need, as Joe Salatin of Polyface Farm, says, to opt-out. We need a movement that returns the power to the individual. An individual not divorced from his food choices and sources. An individual that is active member of community that takes responsibility for his own and the welfare of his neighbors in exchange for the personal opportunity to make decision without regard to local, state or federal regulations regarding something as basic as the substance one ingest daily.
It used to be common in this country to travel and knock on a door for a meal. If you could not pay, you told the host so and offered to do chores in exchange for food. How is it that we have come to a point where simple, local solutions have been cast aside and lost from our memory of how we used to deal with one another?
Of course there are a whole host of problems in resurrecting community dining, but I firmly believe that social tools, now available, can be brought to bear to help us update solutions that worked before, and are needed again, now more then ever. As I have come to understand the problems with our national diet, the art of cooking is a fulcrum on which any solution must balance. Therefore, I applaud your call to all in "Lets get cooking"