No One Cooks In Houston Anymore...Or Do They?
|Photo by Steve Rhodes|
|Michael Pollan, speaking in San Francisco|
|Photo by illustriousbean|
|One of Pollan's best sellers|
At least one decisive statement strikes home for many a Houstonian: "The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower the rate of obesity. In fact, the amount of time spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female particpation in the labor force or income." As the city with one of the highest numbers of restaurants per capita in the nation, as the city whose residents eat out more than any others', and as the city who has very publicly battled obesity for many years, could Houston epitomize Pollan's indictment of people who have lost touch with food?
|Photo by Houstonian|
|Hot, fresh and not-homemade|
We employ a growing army of personal chefs to do our daily cooking for us, ensuring that the food will be cooked when we get home and all that's required of us is reheating. We rely heavily upon not only the freezers of our local grocery stores, but also the "prepared foods" sections where we can pick up ready-made meals on our way home. We eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Nearly 500 people have joined the Houston Chowhounds, a club whose main purpose is eating out and conducting gladiatorial-style throwdowns (one of Pollan's chief annoyances) among area chefs for the amusement of its members. Our two main newspapers feature reviews of food entertainment shows in their dining sections/food blogs. Local charity Recipe For Success is focused primarily on attempting to teach a "lost" generation how to cook and shop for groceries. And one of the latest things to set the entire city afire with discussion was Guy Fieri's rather obnoxious Food Network TV show -- Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives -- bumbling its way through the city.
But does any of this mean that Houstonians aren't still cooking? Weekends at packed farmers' markets, long lines at the grocery stores and sold-out cooking classes across the city would suggest otherwise. Although, as Pollan points out, our definition of "cooking" has changed as drastically over the years as our cooking shows have. Is cooking simply assembling ingredients? Does creating a pizza from pre-made pizza dough and jarred tomato sauce, pre-shredded cheese and pre-sliced mushrooms count as cooking? Or must all those things be made from scratch to be considered "real" cooking?
|Photo by Lori Grieg|
|Cooking in Houston during the summer is hot...literally|
So could it be, then, that Houston really is still a cooking city? Do we still care deeply about the food we put into our mouths -- but only in the winter months? Or is the sad fact that we've slid so far downhill that our city's greatest culinary accomplishment in recent memory is a smarmy TV show host horking down greasy pub food and tacos in front of bright lights and boom mikes?