Fast food vs. family values

I just read an article predicting that by the year 2018, spending on food away from home will exceed food at home for the first time. This saddens me on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.

And the fastest-growing sector is the “fast casual” restaurant. Chains like Panera, Chipotle, and Pret a Manger.

But these are “healthier” alternatives to fast food chains, right?

Not really. Again, marketing gurus have brainwashed millions of people into believing something that simply isn’t true. There’s no way to verify the quality of the food at these places. And wait until you get a load of the so-called “nutritional” facts…There’s certainly nothing casual about them. (Oh, and Pret a Manger? It’s owned by McDonalds.)

Yet these restaurants position themselves in a sweet spot, combining the convenience and relative cheapness of fast food with a “higher quality” dining experience. But is that experience better than eating at home with your family? Unlikely.

Some of my earliest memories are of cooking with my mom, dad, grandmother, and aunts. Each family member trying to outdo the other as to who made the best meatball or the best gravy (pasta sauce to you non-Italian readers). The hunt for the best produce, the freshest meats… It was like a scavenger hunt each weekend at casa del Pescatore.

So I knew the fundamentals of cooking probably as early as I knew how to ride a bike. And, as a result, I gained a certain set of skills and values. Ones that can only be instilled by teaching kids where food comes from and how to prepare it. Because it doesn’t come fully prepared from a grocery store or a restaurant. And this cuts across all socio-economic backgrounds. (“Dollar menus” anyone?)

I worry that people don’t know how to cook anymore. We all have amazing kitchens in our homes. Yet, many of these spectacular workspaces never get used. Even to heat things up!

For the money and time it takes to go to a “fast casual” restaurant, you can make a nice meal at home. One that that tastes just as good (if not better), but has the benefit of quality ingredients you can trust.

And as an added bonus, it gives you the priceless opportunity to bond with your family–and maybe even teach them some valuable lessons along the way.