Not long ago, I read people were cooking more from scratch. In the midst of the economic blight, it makes perfect sense and although I can't imagine anyone boiling bagels or making Jell-O the old-fashioned way with gelatin and sugar, I can picture them whisking salad dressings and stirring chocolate pudding.
"From scratch" cooking is something Harry Balzer would know. Harry is at NPD, a marketing group that studies consumer behavior. For 30 years his specialty has been American eating habits—not what people say they eat, but what they actually put in their mouths. Off the top of his head, Harry knows ham is the most popular homemade sandwich and fruit is the nation's favorite dessert. He knows people are still going to restaurants, but instead of having supper, they're eating breakfast or buying take-out. Harry has the numbers to prove more men are cooking and packaged foods and microwaves are on the increase. But he says there's no evidence from-scratch cooking is on the rise.
In fact, cooking is not one of America's favorite habits. According to Harry, preparing a meal is a task, which turns into a job, which people don't want. "Cooking is recreational when you don't have to do it every day," says Harry.
For someone like me, who likes nothing better than putting on an apron and cooking up a storm, it's hard to believe. But if Harry says so, it must be true.
If you feel compelled to buck the trend, here are a few recipes worth taking your time over—a few of our favorite "from-scratch" main dishes perfect for anchoring a sit-down dinner with your family.
—By Jill Melton, Relish Editor