Effective Ways to Save Time When Cooking

Nowadays, most of the women must work in the outdoor. However, after returning at home, they must go to the kitchen and start their important role. They must cook the meal. Many people feel so boring with this role. Especially, they must think what to eat today. This is a common big question. Although they are willing to buy all modern kitchen tools including the best stainless steel rice cooker these utensils will help us cook quickly and more delicious. And these products are very strong consumption currently. However, we also must take a lot of time cook a proper meal for the family. Here are some effective ways to save time for cooking which you need to know. If you do not find out the better ways to save time in the kitchen you can refer some methods in this article.

How to save time when cooking effectively

You must remember that saving time in the kitchen does not mean you will cook the simple dishes for your family. You must cook enough dishes and full of nutrients in each meal. It is not simple and difficult to do. With 5 following ways, you will improve your time in the kitchen significantly. Please try them out, right!

  1. Plan Ahead

You must have the plan ahead for your meal. It is very necessary. You can look at this method as follows:

  • You should check all remaining foods in your fridge firstly. This should do on Sunday. At this time, you have more free time;
  • Then, you make the plan for other days in the next week. What dishes will you cook? From there, you will write all necessary foods which you will buy on the paper;
  • Next, you can make the daily menu and attach on the board which it is hung in the kitchen;
  • Finally, you will follow that menu and do not need to think what dishes will today cook.

I make sure that with this plan ahead ,you will save a lot of time to answer the question what will you cook today. In addition, you do not feel the pressure to enter the kitchen and start to cook the meal.

  1. Use The Canned Beans

types of canned beans

In some necessary cases, you also need to have some canned beans in your fridge. You should not think that all canned products are not good for our health. With the dried beans, they are not only delicious but also having the high fiber. Half a cup of beans will contain about 7 grams of fiber.

Moreover, you are worry that the canned beans have a lot of salt. You can rinse to reduce about 35 % salt in it.

  1. Do Not Be Afraid to Use The Frozen Vegetables

All people like to eat the fresh vegetables but they will take a lot of time to prepare and cook. Especially, you must cook some foods which they need a lot of vegetables.

Also, you are hurry to cook some foods. You should choose the frozen vegetables. You can eat the types of vegetables which you like. Even, they are out of season. With the frozen vegetables, they are often chosen by the high quality vegetables. Then, they will be packed and stored carefully. Therefore, you should not be afraid to use the frozen vegetables in your diets.

  1. Pick up Some Vegetables Which They Are Easy to Prepare

Broccoli will be the best choice for you if you do not have free time for cooking in the short time. Just take some minutes to cut and prepare, you can cook the broccoli stir-fry dishes for your family.

On the other hands, you can choose the coleslaw mixes. This cooking recipe also saves your time effectively. Not only saving time but also adding a lot of C vitamin is a great idea after a hard working day which you should think about.

  1. Cooking Quickly with The Whole Grains

Your job is so busy and high pressure. You only want to relax after coming back at home. However, you must cook. How do you do this day? You can prepare some whole grains to cook. You can use the rice cooker to support in this situation.

Besides, many people said that we should eat more grains because the grains are very good for our health.

Moreover, you only take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook. Their nutrients are also very high. A half of a cup of whole grain will contain 3 grams of fiber.

In summary, you like to cook and you always think the new dishes and attractive foods. However, you should wait for the weekend because cooking will take you a lot of time. After a working day, all people in the family are very hungry and they want to eat as soon as possible. Therefore, the housewife must know some effective ways to save time when cooking and still ensure the full of nutrients in each meal. It is not simple. 5 tips can help you have a more exciting idea to cook better and save time effectively.

How to Maintain the Quality of Your Nonstick Cookware?

One of the most annoying problems in the kitchen is the burns and sticky foods remain in your cookware. It’s not only the problem about the food; those spots can ruin your kitchen appliances from the inside. That’s the reason why people are keen on using nonstick cookware. They are covered with nonstick layer so that the food can be cooked without being stuck to the surface. This is an innovation in kitchen cookware manufacturing.

Along with the benefits, there are some new problems with this type of kitchen device, and one of them is the about the ways to maintain the quality of nonstick cookware. After looking for information and suggestions online about best nonstick cookware and how to clean them, we have come up with some ideas that might help you overcome the fear of ruining the nonstick layer out of your kitchen tools.

best nonstick cookware

  1. Heat Adjustments When Using The Nonstick Cookware

Many people think that because the layer is placed at the internal surface of the cookware, the heat of fire can’t bring any harm. However, the truth is another way around. You should avoid using high temperature heat no matter what the source is. There are some common reasons behind this:

  • Cooking over high heat that means you expose your cookware to high temperature for a large amount of time. That means the surface has to work with high tension more than its durability. It can deteriorate the nonstick layer in some certain areas such as the center or the sides if you don’t pay attention.
  • There are many types of nonstick layer used to coat the pan or small tools you are using, and not all of them are friendly to your health. Cooking under high temperature could make them melt and release some unhealthy chemicals. It might pose threats to your digest system as well as your physical condition in case of long – term happening.

So what can I do to prevent this? It’s very simple: Control the heat and the timing. If you are using the gas stove as your main source of heat, you can easily adjust the fire so that the heat is not too much. You can check the food after being cooked. If the smell and the taste have something weird, you should pay attention to the cookware and the coating layer. In addition, if there are something strange happen to the pans or the pot, immediately shut the heat down and look for some replacements before bringing the kitchen appliance to the warranty service.

  1. Nonstick Cooking Spray?

Nonstick pots and pans

Many people told me that we can rely on the benefits of something called nonstick cooking spray. I dug deeper into this type of spray and finally had some information about it. Nonstick cooking spray is some kinds of combination of oil and chemicals that you use to temporary coat your pan surface so that the food won’t be stuck when cooked.

At first sight, I also think that this is quite a good solution because of its convenience and compact. You can apply it to any kinds of cooking tools. However, after several times of using this kind of spray, I came to a realization that this is one of the most things that you have to avoid if you don’t want your cookware to be worn off quickly.

Basically, the nonstick pan doesn’t need any additional sprays. It can’t be burnt off completely so it would stack up continuously over the coating layer of the cookware, especially around the sides where the heat is weakest. The grease you have to clean up will be much more than you can imagine and if sometimes you might do some damages to the cookware while cleaning the grease out of the sides.

So what can I do to prevent that? Quit using the nonstick cooking spray. You pans and pots are already coated with firm and thick layer of nonstick chemical so you don’t have to add any amount of nonstick oil into it. On the other hand, whole fats such as butter or regular oil are the better choices because the can be burnt off completely after cooking.

These are the first 2 reasons for some damages to your nonstick cookware and the simplest solutions. You can find out more in our articles about nonstick kitchen appliances. The innovation of kitchen tools brings us so many advantages in cooking and cleaning, but you still have many things to do to remain them at the best condition. Have fun cooking!

What Would You Choose: Toaster Oven Or Microwave?

As the modern technologies develop day by day, the kitchen appliances are designed better in both appearance and operation. It provides us the convenience by shortening the time and saving efforts used for cooking. Needlessly to say, the microwave oven and the toaster oven are the most important equipment that any family kitchen needs. However, do you know exactly the differences between them?

Toaster oven vs. Microwave

To answer this question, we have looked for the reviews about top rated toasted oven as well as microwave to see whether we can find some clues or not. Actually, the choice of the customer base on their requirements and the financial condition, but it would be better to have a closer look at these two appliances and see about their capabilities.

Comparing Aspects

Obviously, the functions of these appliances have some similarity but they are not the same. At least we can find out some features about them as demonstrated. Let’s find out about the pros and cons of the toaster oven in comparison with the microwave oven.

  • The first thing I want to mention is the ability of toasting and browning. Apparently, a toaster oven can toast! But the microwave can’t because it can’t produce enough temperature in a certain amount of time to create the same effect as its opponent.
  • The second aspect is about how they cook potatoes. No wonder that both of them can cook potatoes neat and clean.
  • Move on to the third feature is the crisping. As a toaster, the toaster oven can do this perfectly while microwave is unable to do so. It’s all about the heat and the timing. So does heating food like bread? The answer is yes.
  • About convection cooking, the toaster oven overwhelms its opponent one more time. In some designs, the convection fan is installed to make sure that the heat is moved around and evenly inside the oven and make the food cooked well with less heat and in shorter amount of time.
  • There is a weakness of the toaster oven: the size. It can’t cook the food which is over its size. On the other hand, with the average volume up to 40 liters inside, the microwave oven can cook a whole chicken or a loaf of meat easily.
  • Last but not least are the facts about energy consumption. According to the temperature reach within a certain amount of time, the toaster oven can’t be listed as an energy efficient kitchen appliance. On the contrary, the microwave does it great and consumes much less electricity in its cooking process.

In general, these two appliances are quite small in size and can be placed at the counter top of your kitchen. They can provide the same capacity about reheating meals or cooking methods. However, the best way for you is to choose one out of them because your kitchen can’t handle them together and it’s also such a waste of money to buy 2 kinds of machine with almost same functions.

Other Things to Put Into Estimation

  • Cleaning and maintenance: The microwave is quite heavy with many parts inside so that each time cleaning it is like a burden to the housewife. Moving it from one place to another is very hard. In addition, the burns inside it is quite difficult to wash off, on the other way around, the toaster oven is designed with smaller size. Smaller means lighter and fewer parts inside. The toaster takes up small footprints in the kitchen and it’s another positive aspect it brings to your kitchen.
  • The food quality: Honestly, the microwave can offer you many types of food and cooking methods, however, the food are likely to be drained out of water inside while being cooked in the microwave. That’s the reason why microwave is not preferred to toast or doing anything with too high temperature. The toaster oven is somewhat different. While the microwave drains the grease out of the meat and making it awful, using toaster oven, especially convection oven can change everything. The food would be more juice and also the taste – not too dry anymore.

So you might know how to distinguish these two kitchen appliances and how they can make your life better with the help of foods and drinks. Happy cooking and don’t forget to buy an electrical toaster oven for more experience.

Some Cooking Modes of Electric Pressure Cooker

Many electric pressure cooker reviews said that they really like to cook with this pot because there are a lot of cooking modes. It is very convenient in our life. Especially, you will have a lot of time to relax after a hard working day. In addition, you can try to cook many different dishes for your family such as cook rice, cook meat, stew bone, cook porridge, cook beans/ tendon, and baking….

Some cooking modes of an electric pressure cooker

In general, an electric pressure cooker is considered one of the kitchen utensils which many housewives become more confident when they cook food. To know more information about the cooking modes of an electric pressure cooker, please refer to some things in this article. I believe you will be more surprised with the great functions of the electric pressure cooker.

  1. Cook Rice

Here are some typical benefits when we cook rice by the pressure cooker:

  • Cook rice in a pressure cooker will save your considerable time.
  • Moreover, your rice is also extremely delicious and soft.
  • Also, the inner pot of a pressure cooker is made from the aluminum or stainless steel which they are coated the nonstick layer very well. Therefore, the cooked rice will not stick into the bottom of the pot.
  • Besides, it is used very simple. You just set the cooking mode (RICE) or install the cooking time. At this time, the pressure cooker can work automatically. Normally, the cooking time is about 30-40 minutes.
  • Especially, you have to note the suitable amount of water to ensure rice be more delicious. This is very important because it decides the delicious rice or not.
  1. Cook Porridge

You can use the pressure cooker to cook porridge. In this case, it only takes you a short time, maybe 40 to 50 minutes. This also depends on the pot.

When cooking porridge, you often cook about 2/3 the size of pot because porridge is easy to overflow outside.

  1. Baking

There is a special thing that we can use the pressure cooker to make the cake. It means the pressure cooker can replace a bulky oven. You will have the delicious cakes with this multi-function pressure cooker.

Let’s see the differences between the rice cooker and the pressure cooker during baking:

  • For The Rice Cooker

When using the rice cooker to make the cake, you will take the time to control and press the button the several times because this pot is not enough heat.

In addition, you must use the towels to cover to reduce water falling into the cake.

  • For The Pressure Cooker

Making the cake with the pressure cooker will make you feel more comfortable than the ordinary rice cooker. In fact, this pot has the automatic function of the bakery (CAKE). You will spend 45 minutes and you will enjoy the delicious cakes.

  1. Stew Bone

In daily meals, you often take a lot of time to stew because the water of stew bone is very good taste. You can do it very quickly and save the electricity with the pressure cooker. It is a great thing which most of the housewives often apply in the cooking process.

  1. Cook Meat

When cooking some types of meat as meat, chicken, beef in the pressure cooker, you do not need to add more water. With the high pressure, the pot will use the water ingredients in meat to cook the food. This will retain nutrients effectively.

  1. Cook Beans / Tendon

 cook beans

  • The pressure cooker will also help you cook beans faster than another pot. Your beans will be soft within 60 to 70 minutes.
  • Moreover, the nutritional value, as well as the flavor, still retain because it does not cook for a long time at the high temperature on fire.
  • Besides, the tendon is a difficult dish which the ordinary pot must cook too long. However, using the pressure cooker, you will have the delicious dish and the tendon is stewed very soft.

In summary, here are 6 cooking modes in an electric pressure cooker. This will help you have many different choices. Many people think that they will spend a lot of money to own one. Actually, this electric pressure cooker has a lot of models, types, sizes, and prices. You can choose the most appropriate electric pressure cooker for your needs. I am sure that your cooking skill will become better and your dishes will be richer thanks to the electric pressure cooker.

You can seehttp://www.thekitchn.com/a-primer-on-pressure-cooking-193715

Let’s Try Cooking with Dutch Ovens

Dutch Oven Cooking

Cooking is a process. Every cook not only needs to have cooking skills but also has to equip the best rice cooker for themselves. The Dutch oven is necessary, isn’t it?

Let’s Try Cooking with Dutch Ovens

Your cooking kit will become shortcoming if it does not have the Dutch oven. Nowadays, on the market, there are countless selections for you. The important object is what is the best.

  • Choosing an oven

Dutch Ovens

The first, you need to know what the Dutch oven. Simply, it is a round pot that is utilized to cook. This type of pots also uses the heat so as to cook the food. In particular, you can utilize in your kitchen or camping. Therefore, it is divided into two kinds. With models in the kitchen, they are designed with a thinner metal. The bottom is flat, so you can place at home. The design of the camp model is thicker, and heavier; even, it still has legs. Consequently, you can lift an oven off the ground and put coal below.

With the camping version, it is made from two main metals that are iron and aluminum. Due to light weight (from 7 to 10 lbs), so you can easily maintain an aluminum oven. It especially suits for canoeing activities. However, the aluminum material does not keep the heat well. Therefore, the taste does not really perfect. If your family often goes camping, an iron oven is the best choice. It has a heavier weight (from 15 to 20 lbs). In addition, it keeps the heat better.

According to these above information, you have known the material of Dutch ovens. At present, you need to consider the size of ovens. You can select ovens with the deep height or the standard height. Generally, the standard oven quickly heats in comparison with the deep oven. Besides, the diameter of ovens is also different. Of course, large ovens will contain plenty of food. For beginners, you ought to use an oven about 14 inches.

On the other hand, for the Dutch oven, it also needs to have additional features. For example, the lid has a lip that helps hold coals on the top. Like that, the food can be heated from above.

  • The use

The first, you should read the manual from your Dutch oven in order to prepare for utilizing. If it was the period of time, you would not need to do this.

If you have recently purchased a new oven, you should wash it. This one is necessary. To keep the Dutch oven without rusting, it is painted a protective layer. With old ovens, you need to remove the rust, if any. Then, using warm water washes again. Let’s remember that only use ovens when hands dry.

Before heating your Dutch oven to 350º, you need to clean it. You ought to put it in the kitchen and wait when the drain.

At the moment, you use an oil layer. You can utilize vegetable oil or olive oil. You must entirely rinse your oven with oil. Next to, you take one hour so as to heat it. Putting the Dutch oven upright, but the lid is ajar so that the air is able to circulate. Now, you start removing your oven and waiting for cooling. When you recognize that the Dutch oven is warm, you cover an oil layer again; then, you also place it in a stove for one hour (350º). Similarly, you also remove and wait for cooling; then, you cover an oil layer. So far, your Dutch oven can use for your camp trip.

  • The heat

This type of ovens uses coals. The first step, you need to choose an area in order to set up your Dutch oven. You are able to utilize a fire pit. To be easy to clean, you can use a pan. Let’s place your pan in a good position. At that time, you can start using coal. The smell of coal is not good for health, so you can avoid a moment until the coal is ready. You pour them into your pan and put one side. In addition, you ought to remember that the food needs to be put in the Dutch oven before beginning to cook. Don’t place the food in the hot oven. Let’s remember that!

With the Dutch oven, it needs both below and above heat so as to bake. In an oven with 14 inches, you can put 11 briquettes on the bottom and 17 on the above. Like that, it can meet the heat with 325º. To reach 350º, you need to supplement a little briquette. Each 15 minutes, you should also rotate both your oven and the lid at the same time about a quarter. You also need to equip gloves to ensure the safety.

In brief, the Dutch oven is also the best rice cooker that you can believe in using. Through the above information, you have essential knowledge about ovens for your next campaign. Good luck!

best rice cooker
Source: Best Rice Cooker

Views on Pressure Cooking

Home Cooking

Home cooking the main task for every household and it can easily take away your precious time that can be consumed on other things, such as:

  • Relaxing or de-stressing after a hard day in the office,
  • Small DIY project related to home renovation
  • Changing cutains, bed sheets or furniture placement
  • Spending time with kids or other family members
  • Watching your favorite TV show, etc

There are some several different ways to avoid cooking, such as:

  • Going to a restaurant
  • Home deliver food, or
  • Microwave the food cooked in the morning
  • Pressure cooking

Apart from the pressure cooking, there is no other way to get the fresh home-made recipe in less than normal time. A part from cooking, a pressure cooker is the best pressure canner for home and professional kitchens.

Modern-day pressure cookers can cook any type of recipe without any human assistance. Obviously, you have to put the ingredients and adjust your pressure cooker according to the recipe, but this doesn’t include in the cooking time.

Anyhow, people have differen views regarding this cooking method and this post compares their views with the functions of pressure cookers used these days. So, if you have heard stories of pressure cooker explosions and belive that nothing’s changed, this post will help you remove a lot of misconceptions associated with pressure cookers.

History of Pressure Cooking

Pressure Cooking

The pressure cookers that we use today date back to 17th century when Frehcn physicist, Denin Papin created a huge cast iron pot. It had the fitted lid (main feature of modern-day pressure cookers). He was successful in increasing the boiling point of water by 15%, due to which he was able to cook meat in a very short time. The meat was very tender and had softer bones.

However, the process of increasing the internal pressure was still quite dangerous, and required proper measures. In 1680, the Royal Scoeity acclaimed Papin for introducing a pressure release valve that had reduced the chance of explosions significantly.

Pressure Cooker Explosions

Now that you’ve understood that every pressure cooker consists of pressure release valve, why do explosions take place? Is it because of the material? Or, is it because of the handling? Correct answer is, BOTH! In fact, there are other things to take care of in order to avoid pressure cooker explosions.

The Material

One of the basic reasons for pressure cooker explosion has been the material. Earlier, manufacturers used cast iron material. Slight error in the composition of iron ore resulted in inappropriate cooking pots and lids. Especially, when the base is not think enough to handle the pressure, explosions are bound to take place.

The real problem arose after second world war. Due to the rise in demand for pressure cookers, companies that had been manufacturing war items and were facing shutdowns, switched to manufacturing cookware. They introduced hundreds of thousands of pressure cookers that were not properly calibrated, which eventualy gave birth to those painful stories.

Even today, defective pressure cookers have been sold for cheap prices and people with no prior information still face risk of such explosions. Therefore, it is vitally important to search for branded models launched by reknowned manufacturers.

Today, you can find aluminum material in the market, but the best pressure canner is made from stainless steel. It has a relatively thicker bottom to sustain high level of heat and internal pressure.

Handling

Pressure cooker may explode due to improper handling, although, the safety features have reduced the impact of explosion to great extent. Here are some important tips to maintain any kind of pressure cooker.

  • Check whether the lid is properly closed
  • The pressure control should giggle jently
  • The upper handle attached to the lid must be secured on top of the pan handle
  • Don’t apply force to open it, because the lid is locked at high temperature. Applying force may release high pressure steam that can cause steam burns.
  • The rubber gasket must be cleaned properly. It should not be broken or cracked.
  • Store the pressure cooker with lid placed upside down on top of the pan
  • Always read instruction manual before cooking anything

Pressure Cooker Benefits

Pressure Cooker Benefits

Best pressure cooker offers so many benefits that only a cook can imagine. Some of the benefits, according to housewives, professional chefs and cooks are mentioned below:

  1. Pressure cooker saves time and helps fulfill multiple requests at a time.
  2. It offers multiple functions and cooks different food automatically.
  3. Pressue cooker can prepare the food in many ways, such as; browning, steaming, roasting, baking, boiling, stweing, braising etc.
  4. Best pressure cooker is always the best pressure canner You just have to can the ready-made food according to the intructions given in the manual.
  5. If you’re new to cooking, you can use pressure cooking recipes and prepare your favorite recipes any time.
  6. You can take an electric pressure cooker outdoors for picnic, and prepare soups, salad, meat, fish, cakes and more.
  7. Modern pressure cookers have at least 10 safety features to ensure safe cooking.

Food in America

Food in America

That food be good for us is a major concern but often at odds with what we actually eat. By some accounts, “natural” and “organic” foods are the wave of the future. But just think of the labeling quagmire, and how murky are the definitions for those “healthy” words.

To some observers, the food we eat is heading down the road of cross-culturalization and internationalization. We’re open to trying more and different foods than ever before.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

“Right now, we are going through a period of digestion,” says Anne Rosenzweig, chef/owner of Arcadia in New York City. “We’ve been bombarded by so many influences. The ’80s were a decade of so much experimentation. But everything is cyclical. What’s happening now is a retrenchment. But each time we retrench, we return with a much broader concept, a much wider acceptance of many different cuisines.”

If retrenchment, not in economic terms alone, but in social terms, too, equals a renewed desire for simplicity and comfort in the foods we eat, that desire seems in evidence everywhere. “Just after the war broke out,” continues Rosenzweig, “my most popular menu item became roasted chicken,” she says. Potatoes–and kale–adds Rosenzweig are the two most important ingredients in her kitchen now.

By some accounts, however, the move toward food that seems wholesome and unpretentious is a fad just like any other, created by the media.

“Meatloaf never died, at least not in the home kitchen,” says professor Judith Goode, a cultural anthropologist at Temple University in Philadelphia, who has a special interest in food. According to Harry Balzar, an analyst with National Eating Trends, a division of the NPD Group in Park Ridge, IL, the five most popular restaurant foods in 1983 were, in order: french fries, hamburgers, ice cream, side-dish salads, and pizza. Today, they are largely the same: french fries, hamburgers, pizza, chicken, and ice cream.

“Restaurant people and journalists create the fads,” says Goode, “but ultimately they talk to themselves,” she adds.

THE MEDIA MILL

Top Restaurants in America

The media, of course, is no small part of the force that shapes our taste and yen for certain foods. There are at least 50 newsletters alone about food and restaurants published in the United States. In 1990, about 500 new cookbooks were published, according to Grace Kirschenbaum, editor and publisher of the newsletter, World of Cookbooks. The food sections on local and national newspapers number in the hundreds, magazines in the dozens.

The media molds our likes and dislikes, creates fashions and fads, informs us on nutrition, health, and technology, and often, in the process, feeds our obsession with those concerns. But, if we are a complex society, we are also resilient and resistant to media hyperbole.

“The food press plays an enormous role in what takes place,” says Jon Rowley, a restaurant consultant in Seattle. “Our impressionability is greater today than it’s ever been. We are susceptible to trends and fads because the media transmits them instantaneously. If something like infused oil gets written about in the New York Times, which now has national distribution, the influence of that article is very great,” says Rowley. “But,” he adds, “we are also more discerning today. We are less foolish and we don’t believe so easily.”

“In the last two decades, the media brought food to a level of culture it never had before,” notes Mark Erickson, executive chef at the Cherokee Town and Country Club in Atlanta. “In the ’80s, everything was excessive. It was our adolescence. Now, we’re moving into adulthood, and we’re learning not to be so affected by the fads and crazes.”

SUBTLE INFLUENCES

Dolores Custer, a prominent food stylist, agrees that the media’s reach is pervasive, but she also suggests that other, less obvious, forces influence our attitudes and awareness toward food. “The advertising and public relations world strives to influence us in subtle ways,” she says. “Food boards, for example, work hard at developing recipes for their products and sending them to newspapers all over America. We are affected a lot more than we think by advertising.”

Food MagazineCuster also gives a glimpse of some of the processes at work behind the scenes. “Usually, the ‘look’ of food is created in editorial–magazines, newspapers–then moves to print ads and then to television,” says Custer. “Now, for example, food isn’t presented as clear and clean as it used to be. The softer look is in. Plate presentation has changed. When I started 13 years ago black, white, and strongly colored plates were in. Now, I’ve shot a spate of tapestry backgrounds. We’re into homey, comfortable presentations,” she says. “But,” she adds, “food is treated in a much more upscale way today than it was, say, 15 years ago.”

ONWARD AND UPWARD

Largely because of the far-reaching influence of the media, and also because of concerns for health, among other reasons, Americans are more sophisticated about food today than they ever have been. We are certainly more knowledgeable and more demanding.

“There has never been more good food available in restaurants than there is today,” says Tim Zagat, publisher, along with his wife, Nina, of the Zagat Survey.

“I see the desire for food that tastes good trickling down to every facet of the industry,” says Rowley. “Among chefs, operators, and consumers, there has been a newfound interest in getting closer to the production sources of food.”

“From the end of World War II up until the early ’80s,” says Erickson, “the mechanization of our food system grew so quickly that it became depersonalized. The distribution system was set up to feed people, but not necessarily with food that tasted as good as possible. Now, I see a new awareness and appreciation for foods that come from our own backyards–local markets, for example–and also fresh and fast from the source. For me, the most important change in the last few years has been the advent of overnight mail–picking up the phone and having fresh fish flown in from Fiji the next day. Good fresh food is much more accessible today than it was five or 10 years ago,” Erickson adds.

From a consumer’s perspective, locally produced fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, may be easier to find today than 10 years ago. According to the New York Times, the number of farmer’s markets grew from 1,200 to 2,000 across the nation between 1980 and 1990. American Demographics magazine reports that U.S. consumers will spend $1 billion to $2 billion to buy fresh food directly from farmers this year.

But to some observers, availability doesn’t necessarily ensure that we’ll be eating better.

INTRINSIC WORTH

Says Nancy Harmon Jenkins, a food authority based in Boston: “As a society, we’re moving away from food, where it comes from, what makes it good and not good. It’s an instinctive thing we seem to be losing. It’s not so much that we’re not staying home and cooking,” says Jenkins. “It’s that our attitude toward food has changed. There’s a sense at large in the country that food will either make you sick or make you fat.”

Jenkins touches on something that is at the core of our attitudes toward food and eating. On one level, Americans seem to be obsessed with health and nutrition issues: fat, salt, and cholesterol, and the safety of the food supply in terms of chemicals and pesticides. By and large the market has responded. Notes Rowley: “If a restaurant hasn’t adapted its menu to reflect Americans’ dietary concerns, then it has missed the boat.”

As an avid observer of the American supermarket, Rowley also has noticed a substantial shift in the types of product on supermarket shelves. “Fresh squeezed juice is taking the place of whipped creams,” he notes. In 1990, there were more than 13,000 natural-food centers in American supermarkets, according to a USDA study. Health foods were estimated to account for more than $10 billion in revenues by the end of last year, according to American Demographics.

AMERICANS’ SPLIT PSYCHE

But, there is a dichotomy between what we say we want to eat–in restaurants and at home–and what we actually do eat.

diet in americaIn the fast-food segment, which perhaps has been hardest hit by Americans’ vocal concern with diet and fat, products perceived as healthful have been swiftly introduced. McDonald’s low-fat burger and KFC’s skinless fried chicken are among the most obvious examples. Burger King sells one million of its grilled chicken sandwiches on an oat bran biscuit a day. “For the first time,” says Rozanne Gold, a New York City-based restaurant consultant, “consumers’ behavior is catching up with their awareness of diet and health.”

Some observers, however, would counter that view. Barbara Thomas, group research director at the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago, talks to several thousand consumers a year. “Health is a burning issue,” she says. “But on the other hand, people are so tired of all the do’s and don’ts. We’ve found that not as many people watch their diets as talk about it. The ones who do it out of choice are in the minority. The ones who make a change in their diets are generally the ones who are forced to because of medical reasons. I guess what Americans really want is a magic bullet.”

If there is one person in the country who seems to have a knack for knowing what Americans want, it is restaurateur Richard Melman, president of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc. in Chicago. He agrees with Thomas. “I pay a lot of attention to the medical people,” says Melman. “If they can come up with some way, a pill or an easy, safe procedure to control fat and cholesterol, people will go back to eating hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and french fries guiltlessly. Instinctively, people don’t want salad and fish.”

IS OUR FOOD SAFE?

 FOOD SAFE

Beyond the issue of diet, which gains momentum as the population ages, looms another worry in the minds of many Americans. “The single-most important issue that faces us today concerning our food,” says Jenkins, “is the safety issue.”

Thanks to technology, at no other time in history has the food supply been of such consistently high quality. Yet, concerns are growing that the chemicals and genetic engineering techniques used to achieve such quality may ultimately cause much greater harm than good. “The big burning issue,” says Jeremiah Tower, chef/owner of Stars in San Francisco, “is health. I don’t mean the fads. I mean pollution and the way food is mass-produced.”

According to a survey conducted three years ago by the Food Marketing Institute in Washington, DC, for example, 75% of Americans thought herbicide residues were a serious health hazard.

THE FEARS RAISED BY SCIENCE

 DINNER

Biotechnology and other forms of technological tampering with our food supply are also areas that breed fear in the minds of many Americans.

Irradiation is a good example. Although the Federal Drug Administration approved the use of irradiation for poultry recently, virtually none of the chicken on America’s dinner table undergoes the procedure. Says one industry spokesperson: “None of the major poultry farmers in the country wants to be the first to do it. Consumers are afraid of it.”

The public may be voicing its concern over tampering with the food supply, but whether consumers are actually acting on those concerns is another question. What we say and what we do are often miles apart. What motivates our food choices and dictates our eating habits are neither diet nor safety issues, but time–the lack of it–and money.

DILEMMA AT THE DINNER TABLE

Americans spend an average 34.31 minutes at the dinner table, according to Dinnertime USA, a survey of 750 American adults at every age and economic level published in 1989 by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The average amount of time spent preparing dinner is 55.74 minutes, and convenience-driven foods make up many of our dinnertime choices. Of the 750 respondents queried in the survey, 51% use canned products when preparing dinner. About a quarter rely on frozen foods, and one in six relies on take-out for some part of their meal.

When it comes to restaurant dining, overall, approximately 42% of the food dollar is spent outside the home.

Convenience has always been a major force in the American psyche. Today, the pressures of the workaday world have shaped not only what we eat, but the very way we view food in our lives. Yet, like every other observation one might make about who we are based on how we eat, the assessment depends on who is doing the observing. By some accounts the pleasures of the table are in danger of extinction; to others, old-fashioned values–family and shared dining–are alive and going strong.

“There are two things happening,” says Professor Goode. “We’ve given up our old food ways for convenience, and to compensate we’ve created dishes, foods that we think hark back to some nonexistent golden age.”

More and more, Americans are glomming onto ways to save time. The take-out phenomenon is a case in point. But, according to Goode, “What we forget is that food has always been a medium for social interaction. Especially in restaurants, traditionally the dining occasions have been celebratory. What’s happening now is that eating is becoming something to do for the sake of getting some fuel.”

In direct contradiction to Goode’s view was a New York Times article lauding the comeback of the family meal. In the FMI survey, all indicators point to the fact that for most Americans mealtime–at least dinnertime–is an important part of the day. Ninety-five percent of the respondents to the survey said that dinner is the only time they have to be together as a family. On average, American families eat together 5.89 times a week, according to the survey. More than half eat together every day.

What do any of these statistics or opinions really say about who Americans are based on what and how we eat? Without wanting to equivocate, it’s difficult, nearly impossible, to tell. We are a nation of paradoxes, to say the least.

So, without begging the question further, one thing may be said for sure: A picture’s worth a thousand words. Herein lay 52 of them, cut from the broadcloth of food across America.