Fellow Millennials, you love cooking shows, how about learning to, you know, cook?

Fellow Millennials, you love cooking shows, how about learning to, you know, cook?

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Millennials are the Foodie Generation so why aren’t we much interested in making food? Cooking is cheaper and healthier than going out, and it’s fun.

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Millennials should stop watching food shows and start actually cooking.(Photo: Getty Images / Stígur Már Karlsson)

Millennials take a lot of flack, some of it deserved and some of it unfair, but there is one criticism of this generation that has merit: We are not particularly good at cooking. 

A recent survey from Porch.com drove this point home: Millennials cook less than any living American generation. At first blush, the numbers actually don’t look too terrible: My generation cooks, on average, just two fewer meals per week than Baby Boomers. And though 18% of those meals are from “frozen or prepackaged” sources, that’s less than 5 percentage points higher than the Boomers.  

But “cooking” is not a monolithic undertaking: It matters what you cook as well, and young people today are increasingly functionally inept in the kitchen. Barely a third of Millennials in the Porch.com survey knew how to cook poached eggs; a scant 50% of them knew how to roast a chicken. Only 41% could make salad dressing, possibly the simplest recipe in the culinary canon. Nearly two-thirds were unable to make a chicken salad sandwich.

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These numbers, which are lower than previous generations and which point to a steady decline in basic culinary skills, have been replicated elsewhere. The USDA found earlier this year that young people spend nearly an hour less per day than Generation Xers on food prep and cleanup, and that on average they buy fewer raw ingredients than everyone else. My generation beat the others in only three categories of food purchases: pasta, sweets and “prepared foods.” 

Something strange is going on. Young people on average watch more cooking shows than everyone else, and yet they cook less, and more poorly; we are the Foodie Generation but we’re not all that interested in making our own food. 

This is a poverty. There are a whole host of reasons to get good at cooking and to cook most of your own meals. It’s cheaper, for one; eating out, which accounts for over 40% of yearly food expenditures for the average family, is manifestly more expensive than eating at home. We cannot expect to raise a generation of financially secure Americans if we do not raise them to be culinarily self-sufficient. 

Cooking your own meals tends to be healthier as well. You can control where your food comes from, what goes into it, how fresh it is, how it is prepared. So many of America’s health problems come from our eating garbage: Hyper-processed, over-salted, preserved, low-quality meat and vegetables. You can avoid these things far more easily by eating at home.

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Perhaps most pointedly, there are some special and materially unquantifiable aspects to cooking for yourself and, if you have one, for your family. It is fun, for a start: It feels good to develop one’s culinary skills, learn new styles of food, discover new cooking equipment, figure out how to properly spice a ghoulash or make a good loaf of bread. 

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If you commit to grocery shopping for and cooking nearly all of your own meals, your life will become more interesting and more varied — as well it should be. If you explore new recipes, and determine to master familiar ones, you will notice that your kitchen becomes a place of entertainment and satisfaction as much as a place of workaday domestic chores. “What am I going to cook today?” is, or at least should be, an exciting question rather than an unhappy grumble. 

My generation can do better than this. We have absorbed well the dictates of the postindustrial market, which has largely denigrated cooking to the point that there is actually a thriving market for frozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. But food doesn’t have to be like this. It can be both healthy and delicious, quality and affordable, fun and spiritually fortifying. To my generation, I say: Learn how to poach your eggs. And then learn how to cook something else.

Daniel Payne is an assistant editor at The College Fixand blogs at TrialoftheCentury.​​​​​​.net.

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