There was an interesting story in last Saturday’s National Post about young’uns rejecting processed food, and the impact it’s been having on the food industry. It’s certainly worth a read, if you haven’t seen it yet.
At the core of the story is the revelation that younger eaters are rejecting the processed foods of the generation before them. They want “clean” ingredient lists packed with the grocery items found in a cookbook, not the multi-syllabic terms of a chemistry textbook. The food industry is scrambling to respond, either by buying up little food companies with street/aisle cred, or by trying to tweak their products to appeal to the Instagram food-photo generation. I like the article’s mention of half-prepped foods, like pre-chopped veggies and not-quite-complete soup kits, and how the addition of a fresh ingredient or two can be enough to satisfy budding home cooks. Who, after all, takes insta-glam shots of a bowl of factory-made soup?
Of course, many of these young people grew up on Wonderbread and Oreos, frozen French fries and canned pasta. Their parents may or may not have cooked much at home, so you’d think they’d be lost. But you’d be wrong.
I’d argue there’s never been a better time to learn how to cook. Recipes for just about anything can be found via Google within a minute or two. If you’re not sure what the hell a julienned something looks like, try a Google image search. And if you need a video aid to help you along, there’s a YouTube tutorial for any technique you’d ever want to learn. Want to butcher a whole chicken down into pieces? Want to make garlic toast like the pros? It’s on the interwebs.
Cooking at home has always been a social activity. From sharing recipe cards to teaching your kids to peel a carrot, learning from others and passing on time-saving kitchen tips is nothing new. Now that a generation of kids raised on Kraft Dinner and Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup have started to learn what real food can taste like, they’re branching out, and they’re using social media to do it. They haven’t completely rejected processed food – those tetra-packs of Campbell’s chicken stock are pretty handy, after all. But they’re getting curious. And being curious is the first step to having a meaningful relationship with food.