Homemade Is the New Organic

Meatloaf isn't good enough anymore. How media raised the bar for home cooking
(Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters)

I can sense when the question is on the tip of someone’s tongue. By now, the cocktails have turned watery. The tinkle of forks has softened. The conversation turns away from news, friends, or families, to cooking. “So Rachel, what do you and Adam like to cook?” I squirm, glance to the side and exhale a feeble response. “Oh you know, we like to experiment.” And then, with raining salt down over the zucchini pasta I’ve put in front of them, someone will inevitably pipe up: “Oh, I have some great homemade recipes for you to try.”

Growing up in the 80’s, homemade food in my household was a given, not a lifestyle choice or marketing ploy. It was a matter of economics. There was homemade spaghetti sauce, which my mother, a homemaker, would set to simmer all day long in the faded flowery crockpot. There was pumpkin pie, a buttery foundation cradling deceased Halloween decor that had been excavated, stewed, and frozen for future consumption. And then, of course, there were homemade cinnamon rolls, a Christmas morning special.

But for the most part, homemade, as a reality, was boring. At worst, it was embarrassing—especially on meatloaf sandwich days. So after reading a recent Modern Love column in the New York Times, a tale of healing and rediscovery in the kitchen, I couldn’t help but consider how our attitudes surrounding domesticity, and its current post-feminist, Etsy-fied flavor, have changed our appreciation and definition of what constitutes a home-cooked meal. Now it often seems that the self-congratulating term implies something much more special than day old meatloaf and flaccid green beans.

Homemade is the new organic. And while the idea is as old as time, the connotation it carries—one of quality, wholesome goodness, and intentionality—feels fresh in an age where time may be the biggest luxury. Homemade may be one of the last things you can't fully fake (unless you’re Sarah Jessica Parker in a rom-com).

The resurgence of the homemade movement could probably be traced to a variety of cultural movements from the last decade: Facebook and other social platforms that give an audience to our meals, the proliferation of lifestyle-oriented blogs, food prices that have largely remained stagnant in the U.S. up until now, the increasing popularity of food TV and the rise of the celebrity chef, you name it. Ultimately though, I believe the foodie movement, a faction of the “big lumpy tent” of a food movement (as Michael Pollan christened it), has had the biggest impact on the way we perceive a home-cooked meal. For as The Hartman Group, a consulting firm explains, "foodies at the core of food culture cook (really cook) from scratch ingredients…they embrace a kind of peasant-inspired simplicity of cooking for cooking's sake linked with food experiences… "

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Rachel Jones is a writer and co-editor of Industry of One. She is based in Brooklyn, New York.

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