Who's cooking your food?

What predicts a healthy diet more than anything else is the fact that it's being cooked by a human being and not a corporation

Sheree Solbiati knows the value of a good home-cooked meal. It's something she was literally raised on, and something she actively participated in the preparation of from the age of six.

And with lots of chefs in the family, small wonder that her interest in food and cooking has now morphed into a heated passion that fuels her Certificate III in Commercial Cookery studies at TAFE NSW's Mt Druitt Campus.

"I grew up around food and cooking," she said. "Mum and Dad always worked full-time, so I cooked at home by choice. For me, cooking was a relaxing activity. There was never take-away in our house, we always ate home cooking."

This is in stark contrast to a large number of Australian households. Since the mid-1960s, both here and in the US, home cooking has gradually been sliding out of popularity. Processed food has become more prominent and fast food has virtually taken over our diets.

It doesn't take a genius to understand that food has a huge bearing on our health. Yet, in our hectic, stressed-out, time-poor lives, so many of us actually have no idea who's cooking our food. Or even where our food is coming from.

"What predicts a healthy diet more than anything else is the fact that it's being cooked by a human being and not a corporation," says American author and ‘food activist', Michael Pollan. "Corporations cook very differently to the way people do. They use vast amounts of salt, fat and sugar, much more than you would ever use in your own cooking."

[quote]The culture of home cooking has been deliberately and systematically dismantled by the food industry.[/quote]

We've been virtually brainwashed into thinking of home cooking as "drudgery, something we don't have the time or the skills for".

All of this is a galaxy away from Sheree, who sees cooking as a joy, a way of life. She won a scholarship out of 215 other Commercial Cookery students who applied, and her goal is to one day become a TAFE Commercial Cookery teacher herself. She agrees that the gradual decline of home cooking is a sad thing, also touching upon the disappearing tradition of the family sitting down to a meal together.

"At TAFE there was a visiting group of Year 10 students," she said. "Only one person in that group of 30 regularly sat down with their family for home cooking."

Forsaking home cooking for junk food and other highly processed food products has another, far more alarming downside. One that's already making its mark on many western societies – the ‘o' word… obesity. Put simply, as rates of home cooking decline, rates of obesity go up.

There have been many, many different fad diets marketed to counter soaring obesity rates both here and in the US and UK. But perhaps the real solution is much simpler than any of them. As Chicago-based food marketing consultant, Harry Balzer, says so succinctly; "Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself."