Here are two stories worth paying attention to. The first—"Let's stop idealizing the home-cooked family dinner," which ran a couple weeks back in Slate—prompted so much snark that its author swore off Twitter. The second—"The problem with home-cooked meals," which ran today at VOX DOT COM—covers much the same ground. Indeed, they rely on the same study and even recycle the same AFP image. They are in tone quite similar. Amanda Marcotte and Sarah Kliff desire to reduce in stature the home-cooked meal, from something that should be lionized to something that should be neutrally considered, only appreciated when it's pragmatic, and, frankly, looked upon with some measure of suspicion.
From Marcotte's piece:
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In recent years, the home-cooked meal has increasingly been offered up as the solution to our country's burgeoning nutrition-related health problems of heart disease and diabetes. But while home-cooked meals are typically healthier than restaurant food, sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton from North Carolina State University argue that the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.
From Kliff's piece:
For these families, tossing a salad wasn’t simple at all. Those who lacked reliable transportation only grocery shopped once each month, making perishable foods impractical. Scrambled eggs might not please all family members; roasting a chicken requires time between finishing work and serving dinner.
"The idea that home cooking is inherently ideal reflects an elite foodie standpoint," they write in the journal Contexts. "Romantic depictions of cooking assume that everyone has a home, that family members are home eating at the same time, and that kitchens and dining spaces are equipped and safe. This is not necessarily the case for the families we met."
Let's leave aside all of the obvious complaints we could make about this study and these adventures in journalistic excellence ("Oh my god, you mean kids sometimes throw a fit when they're asked to eat vegetables? This is a heretofore unheard of problem requiring social science's close study!") and instead focus on the left's end goal. The left is presenting home cooking as some sort of mechanism of oppression, an undue burden on a vulnerable class of citizens. Won't someone please think of the children? And, of course, their harried mothers?
The alternatives to home-cooked meals, at present, are lacking. The left is convinced that we are in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and food cooked at home is, by and large, much healthier than food purchased from restaurants. Further, eating out costs a great deal more than cooking one's own food, meaning that impoverished single mothers couldn't eat out every day even if they wanted to.
So we're left with a situation in which a cherished ideal is systematically devalued in the press by means of flimsy social science data while the media simultaneously declares that a vulnerable class needing protection has been "failed" by the free market. Meaning, of course, we need more government! From Kliff's piece:
We haven’t figured that out, but we have a few ideas, like healthy food trucks or community kitchens or to-go meals at schools that kids can take home. It’s good that people are talking about food, but we should start thinking about how can we support families in ways that aren’t just in the kitchen.
Emphasis mine. One wonders where these thoughts will go once they start. "SNAP has failed," they will cry. "Cooking at home is way too hard, too damaging to the self esteem of those who sometimes have to hear their kids complain about mac and cheese. We need greater action! Meals on wheels for single moms, delivering healthy Meals Ready-to-Eat with a single phone call! We already have federally funded school lunch programs and school breakfast programs—why not school dinner programs? Are we not the greatest country in the world? Can we not afford to do so little for the neediest among us?"
And, just like that, another cornerstone of family life falls by the wayside, crippled by the ever-creeping shadow of the government.
For the children, of course.