Aspen Untucked: Can millennials take the heat in the kitchen?
Everywhere we look, there’s always a different study, statistic, or analysis on the millennial generation. From not buying homes to participating in community service, everyone seems to enjoy learning what makes us tick and what most definitely does not.
The most frequent headline I’ve been reading as of late about my generation involves our lack of time spent in the kitchen. Apparently, millennials aren’t as interested or knowledgeable about cooking as previous generations.
A recent survey from Porch.com, a home improvement website, found that we eat, on average, 13 meals per week at home, fewer than the Baby Boomers or Generation X. Out of those meals, 18 percent are frozen or prepackaged. These numbers weren’t leagues higher than the other two generations, but it was rather alarming to see that the millennials surveyed don’t know how to cook very basic things. The survey went through a list of classic breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert dishes and asked each generation if they knew how to cook each item. Millennials knew how to cook the least amount of items. In fact, they scored the lowest in every dish, with the exception of chocolate chip cookies from ready-made dough (Baby Boomers lost that one). Some of the food items that millennials scored the lowest in were seemingly basic things like poached eggs, fried chicken, salad dressing, barbecue ribs, shrimp scampi, artichokes, and apple pie.
My column is typically about millennials. Obviously, I often get sidetracked in other ramblings, but my goal is to look at the trends and the research being done on my generation. I like to try and debunk certain studies about us or find alternative ways to look at arguments.
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In this case, I was not at all surprised to see that millennials are less savvy in the kitchen than older generations. I think many of us would say that we are far too busy with our careers to spend time cooking on a weeknight. And, on the weekends, we want to be checking out the latest restaurant experience with friends. Cooking is just not as much of a priority. At least, that’s one argument.
Another is that it takes a lot of time and practice to learn how to cook well. It’s not something that one either opts in or out of. Generation X and Baby Boomers are, obviously, older than millennials. They’ve had more time to perfect their techniques in the kitchen. I’m sure many of them could relate to not being able to roast a chicken or poach an egg in their mid-twenties. As we get older, we millennials will probably learn a lot more about making our own food because we will either need or want to spend more time in the kitchen.
For me, time spent in the kitchen shifted drastically from my college and early post-college days to now. I used to think cooking was a waste of time. In fact, I was almost proud to say I was a bad cook. Going out and trying new foods or bringing home dishes always trumped spending time making my own meals. I maybe tried to cook once or twice a week at most, with the exception of prepping toast for breakfast and maybe a couple of salads for lunch. My initial post-college years were spent living in an apartment space in the basement of a house in the Smuggler Trailer Park. My roommate and I didn’t have a full kitchen there, which probably added to my lack of interest in cooking. At that time, it just wasn’t important to me. I didn’t think it really mattered how I got my food, just as long as it was tasty and somewhat healthy.
I’m not sure when exactly things started to change. It may have had to do with spending more time at home with a new dog or maybe moving in with my significant other and acquiring a fully functioning kitchen. All of a sudden, I started picking up a spatula more often. I looked up recipes and even bought some cookbooks. I became more aware of the flavors I liked and the meals I craved. Cooking was no longer something I had to do, it was something I wanted to do. It’s a place where my creativity could take flight and my anxieties from the day could be put at bay. Now, I’m well into my twenties and I enjoy cooking the majority of my meals. I’m looking up recipes daily, reading articles about nutrition, and finding ways to reuse vegetables and other types of food. No, I’m nowhere near an expert, but I enjoy the constant learning that cooking involves. And, when I do go out for a meal, I appreciate the dishes I spend my money on even more because I understand, at least slightly, the time and care that went into preparing that dish.
As with any study or survey on millennials, I think the recent one completed by Porch.com shows only a small part of the story. Yes, there are millennials that eat out a majority of the time. There are also those that are their happiest in the kitchen. In this valley, I’d say some of my favorite chefs are of the millennial generation.
No matter what side of the spectrum you fall on, I think the important thing is finding joy and health in good, local foods, no matter if they’re made in your kitchen or another one.
If she’s being completely honest, Barbara Platts admits that she’s never poached an egg before. But she can roast one mean chicken. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BarbaraPlatts.
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