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I have this theory... - Tina Marie's Ramblings
Red hair and black leather, my favorite colour scheme...
skywhisperer
skywhisperer
I have this theory...
The starting point: Prepared foods from the supermarket taste better then they did 5 or 10 years ago. This is probably due to some new chemical compound that we'll find out 5 years from now causes cancer in lab rats, but that's a rant for another day.

For example, I remember Swanson's pot pies. Compared to the Marie Callender's pot pies you can get today, there's no comparison.

Next point: There are two types of cooking. There's the "dump a can of this and a can of that and some rice with some chicken breasts" cooking. The type of people who do this don't seem to be the people who really enjoy cooking - they do it for other reasons. They feel they "should", they think it's healthier, whatever, but they don't do it because they love to cook. Then there's the "everything from scratch" cooking, with fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, and the like.

I suspect that at this point, the taste and value of prepared foods is so close to the "combine nearly-prepared foods" type of cooking that many people who don't cook for the fun of it will just stop bothering. Why bother baking chicken breasts in cream of mushroom soup when you can get better tasting food from Lean Cuisine (and I'm pleased to note, more and more manufacturers are cutting down on the incredibly high sodium levels in their products, but that's another rant for another day)?

This would seem to divide the world into people who don't cook at all, and people who cook almost entirely from scratch. That would seem to raise pretty high barriers-to-entry - if you had to transition from microwaving a frozen dinner to choosing good ingredients and cooking them all from scratch, a lot of people would give up. And if less and less people cook, those ingredients will get harder and harder to find, raising the barriers more...

Is cooking as a hobby going to someday go away entirely, or at least become the purview only of the rich?

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Comments
bekijane From: bekijane Date: December 25th, 2006 10:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Cooking a full meal with fresh ingredients is often far, far cheaper than buying the ready made varieties. Budget cookery is an art form all its own.

I don't think cookery is going anywhere personally. I think the convenience foods will become less ans less viable as we look at packaging/energy use/ecological impact etc.
rattleback From: rattleback Date: December 25th, 2006 11:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Even if cooking does become the purview of the rich, it will stay around, just because (barring a cataclysm) society keeps getting richer and the hobbies of the rich become more accessible, like golf. There's also the ability of enthusiasts to overcome barriers: if general aviation can keep going despite the best efforts of trial lawyers and the homeland-security panickers, cookery will be with us always.

Even on the low end, people will still get dissatisfied and want to tweak the prepared offerings, because that's how people are. Soldiers in the field do all kinds of stuff with their MREs, and those are pretty much designed to have no user-serviceable parts inside.
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alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: December 26th, 2006 07:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, the start up costs for living off the grid are incredibly high. Well, unless you think you can live with an Edwardian standard of living (i.e. no electricity). Even for a small house in a sunny climate, just to keep a typical load of compact flourescent lights on at night needs about 3 grands worth of solar panels, batteries and inverters. Although if you're designing an off-grid place by scratch you could make it all 12vdc which would help a lot (plus a 1kW inverter draws an amp at idle - you'd then only need a very small inverter to power stuff that really must run off AC)

At least heating is easy to solve - so I don't have to use very much gas next year, I'm going to install a wood burning stove in my house. They put out tons of heat, and if you just burn wood in them it's very low CO2 (just a little transportation).
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From: (Anonymous) Date: January 2nd, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC) (Link)

Off-grid vs on-grid

These days about the only reason to choose off-grid solar is if the grid is not there or too costly to hook up. Grid-tied inverters are more common and are the cheaper option in most states - mostly because there is easy access to net metering setups in most states, and something like half the states now have green energy programs which provide incentives - $$$ - to support installation of these systems. In some places the response has been so great that the programs are overwhelmed, but many opportunities exist. Federal tax incentives still apply, too.

Consider this - for an off grid home you need to buy, install and maintain batteries - usually flooded lead acid type. You get maybe 95% efficiency from these batteries - meaning that if you put 1 kWh of energy into the batteries you'll get at best 0.95 kWh back out. If you're running low on battery power you might need to jump to a backup source like a small generator, which aren't all that efficient, really. If the batteries are near full, then you might get only a fraction of the available energy from the solar panels into the batteries. Seasoned offgrid residents build their day around the sun to cycle their batteries to make best use of the sun power - or wind or, more commonly today, both.

A grid tied solar power system uses what is essentially an infinite and perfect storage system - the grid. Any excess power you make runs out there and gets used right away without storage losses - possibly it may have to run through a transformer, but the solar array always works at its peak power point, so you get the most impact for your solar cell dollar. In this setup you still pay the utility for some of your power, but in some states they only bill you once a year.

Something to consider.

More to the point of the post, anyone who cares enough to grow even a bit of their own food will always be keen to prepare meals themselves. It's also contagious.
alioth1 From: alioth1 Date: December 26th, 2006 08:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you're being a mite pessimistic. Even if only 10% of the adult population cooks from scratch, in the United States, that's going to be on the order of 20 million cooks just at a rough estimate. Many hobbies are far more minority without being inordinately expensive.

Also, the jump from microwave ready meals to pre-prepared ingredients in a pot is only tiny, so the jump from microwave to from scratch or semi pre-prepared to from scratch is still the same order of magnitude in difficulty increase.

I agree microwave meals have become much better, I usually have a microwave curry for dinner on work days. I really only cook (if at all!) on weekends, and the most complex stuff I do is baking! Usually, cooking from scratch for me is things like steak and chips (fries) with some veg, or fish pie, or chili con carne or something similar to that. We still have independent butchers here (two within walking distance for me), with properly hung meat - the difference between meat from a proper butchers compared to a supermarket is like night and day. I love doing a 10oz sirloin - beautiful piece of meat from my local butcher, get the cast iron pan so hot it starts to smoke (I have a double-burner gas wok burner on my stove - that's what I do it on), a little olive oil and then the steak just 2.5 minutes a side. Then the pan usually catches fire :-) The end result is mouthwatering. I have to remember to close the kitchen door or I set off the smoke alarm on the upstairs landing!
skywhisperer From: skywhisperer Date: January 3rd, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
huh, huh, huh, you said properly hung meat.
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