Food Culture and Family: Why you should eat home-cooked food

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Food and family are hardly inseparable from culture. In many cultures, especially, African, food is, therefore, not only eaten to satisfy hunger; food has some cultural functions as well. That explains why some cultures attach much importance to eating at home and amongst family members and friends. 

With industrialization and globalisation playing significant roles around the world at present, there is an increase in the number of restaurants in the entire globe. The surge in the number of hotels is attributed to the high demand for takeout food.  With the pressure that comes with globalization, cooking has become a scary task for quite a several people; they prefer either processed or restaurant meals to the home-cooked ones.

The familiar excuses people give to defend their new trend and habit are, amongst others, lack of time, cheaper to eat fast food, being tired to fix a meal after spending your day at work, amongst other reasons. Yet a growing number of young generation admit they do not know how to cook. What is more, cooking at home has been systematically relegated to the background in the order of priority.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that men consume more fast food than women with 46.5 per cent of men between 20 and 39 being huge users of restaurant meals.

However, research has shown that home-prepared meals have many advantages over foods from restaurants. Some food experts have argued that home-cooked food will remain a better option than that from a restaurant. Apart from the fact that most of the home-made food is organic-based, you do have control over the food you prepared at home, experts say. The home-made food is more often than not, unlike the former which can adversely affect your health since it contains a high level of sugar, salt and chemical additives.

But focussing only on the health advantages of choosing home-made foods will undermine other benefits of cooking at home. Apart from numerous research works, which have indicated that eating at home is healthier, and it rewards with a longer life, in comparison with those who eat fast-restaurant food, home-prepared food comes with other benefits.

Importance of home-cooked foods

1. Healthy

Those who eat at home are less likely to contract diseases such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. You control the amount of salt, sugar, fat and additives you allow into your body.

A study by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated that adults who cook dinner at home only once a week consume 2,300 calories per day on average, which include 84 grams of fat and 135 grams of sugar. In comparison, regular at-home cooks eat 150 fewer calories per day and consume only 81 grams of fat and 119 grams of sugar.

2. Brings family together

In many cultures, eating is a cultural activity; it is not just a way of fulfilling one’s urge, rather, it is a celebration of a cultural entity. Hence, in Africa, for example, both preparations of food and eating itself take time. Eating as a family in the dining room allows you to share the experiences you encountered during the day and other issues. Also, make the cooking social by asking your children or other family members to join you in the kitchen. They can assist with small chores like cutting or washing of spices. While you and others are cooking some may be watching television together and some playing in your backyard. These strengthen your bond ties.

3. Act as a stress reliever

One feels exhausted after spending the whole day working. However, cooking helps you to do away with stress. It involves numerous activities such as cutting onions and tomatoes, weighing salt, whisking eggs etc. which will break the monotony and make you relax and calm.

4. Saves money

In general, eating out is very expensive despite the existence of restaurants selling cheaper foods. The owner of a hotel puts into consideration many factors before coming up with the price of a particular food. They include ingredients, staff costs, general restaurant cost and cooking services. For instance, eating a half a kilogram of pork meat together with ugali in any Nairobi hotel will cost you more than $4 but you are likely to spend half the amount when you cook the same meal in your home. Extra costs like usually over-priced drinks make eating outside home very exorbitant.

5. Time-saving

Eating out is not as time-saving as many perceive. You have to drive to the restaurant, order, eat, pay and finally leave. All these require much time than cooking.

6. Food safety

Foods cooked at home are more secure. They are handled with care and the remaining foods are well stored in a closed container or refrigerator for future use.  You know where and how your food is prepared, who goes inside and comes out of the pot. You hardly have control over the hygiene of the food from outside. A person who eats out is susceptible to food poisoning because there is a high possibility of food mishandling.

7. You have more control

“Anyone can benefit from having more control over how our food is made and portioned, but eating food from home may be particularly helpful for anyone those trying to lose weight, with food allergies or following a special diet due to medical conditions,” said Meg Hagar, an American dietitian, nutritionist and health practitioner.

When you prepare your meal at home, you have the authority in determining the amount of salt, sugar, fats and portion size, a right which those who eat out do not have.

8. Enhances your creativity

It is not mandatory to follow the recipes at hand, but you can try different methods, using your ingredients to come up with something unique and scrumptious.

9. Lowers depression

Cooking sometimes is a therapeutic activity. When you are cooking your attention does not get diverted to think of other problems. Your mind focuses fully on what you are doing and in the long run, there is a reduction in anxiety.    

In general, experts would advise you not to treat cooking as a daunting activity. Keep it simple if you are new in the field. You can do this by beginning to cook one or two meals a day. Don’t let your work or other activities be your excuse for not taking care of your food. You can also cook a large quantity of food or different types of your favourite cuisines, enough for a whole week, which you may store in the freezer. All you need to do is to warm it up when you want to eat. Try as much as possible not to spend time, cooking what you do not like; doing so, puts you under unnecessary pressure, which in fact. Should not be the case. Enjoy your new lifestyle!

By Sam Ouma