What does "cooking" mean to you?

debrak_2008October 13, 2012

Often I read posts here where it is mentioned that the person "doesn't cook". I wonder what that means. Do they eat out breakfast, lunch, and dinner? I suppose some do.

I guess it all depends on what "cooking" means to you. Taking out something frozen from the freezer and putting it in the microwave, is that cooking? Using a combo of canned, frozen, boxed items?

In my definition anything you do to prepare a meal is cooking. Many of those who "don't cook" probably do cook in my opinion but their needs are different than someone who cooks from scratch.

Home cooking is different as I tend to picture making pie crust from scratch.

So I'm curious, just for fun,...what does "cooking" mean to you? If you are in the "don't cook" catagory, how do you eat meals?

Attached is an article I found when I googled.

Here is a link that might be useful: What does cooking mean?

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To me cooking is prepari g any type of meal. There are many times we do not apply heat to any foods, but create a delicious salad. I have a friend with a beautiful kitchen and she proclaims to not cook. Well, I know that is not true. She is a processed food junkie. She makes a mean pan of sloppy joes or hamburger helper!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 9:05AM
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I don't cook. I microwave or occasionally put into the oven meals from Trader Joe's. Our housekeeper also prepares things and then I reheat them in the microwave or oven. We eat out a fair amount although not as much as we used to (I HATE chain restaurants and will only go out if we are going somewhere local/unique or for fine dining).

To me, cooking is when more than one step is involved, when more than one ingredient is mixed together or when I have to turn on the cooktop. So, making mac & cheese from a box is cooking but heating easy mac in the microwave isn't.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:07AM
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I cook. My DH doesn't but claims cooking credits when he orders pizza or takes me out to dinner. He is responsible for 2 nights. He says he is cooking if food appears on the table. I don't quite see it this way but at least he takes his responsibility seriously.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:23AM
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To me, cooking means from scratch ... whatever it is I'm making.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:27AM
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I'm with deedles. To me cooking means building a meal with separate ingredients, from scratch, even if it's easy. I used to do that all the time. Now that I'm on my own, I turn more and more to MW frozen or pick up soup at Whole Foods. It may be delicious, but it ain't cooking.

I've always been a good cook, but, aside from baking, I don't get off on it as some people do. I feel better with a home-cooked meal, but I'm not digging the work.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:38AM
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I like to say that I "assemble" breakfast, because pouring milk on cereal, grabbing a banana, and scooping out a serving of yogurt into a bowl doesn't seem like cooking. Although I suppose in the winter, when I put water and oatmeal in a bowl and stick the bowl in the microwave, I am, in fact, cooking the oatmeal (it is not the instant kind).

The simplest form of cooking, to me, would be something like making boxed mac and cheese. You have to heat water, and cook the macaroni and measure out the milk and butter.

But you can make a complete, healthy meal without cooking anything. Say a turkey sandwich, carrot sticks and an apple. I'd call that "making" lunch, not cooking lunch. But I wouldn't argue with someone who said they "cooked" that lunch.

I make a lot of my own bread, and pizza, and focaccia, and cookies and brownies and such, because I like to bake. I cook from scratch a lot, and make extras to freeze for later.

But I also "reheat" frozen pizzas and waffles on occasion.

So I cook, but I also reheat and assemble and make meals, depending on what I'm eating.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:06AM
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We mostly cook at home. After a lifetime of cooking, I tend to stick to simpler things, meaning the preparation takes less than an hour, not counting cooking time. I like good food but I am not enthralled with cooking (I wouldn't call it a hobby). My DH enjoys cooking more than I do and will take more time, but he also goes about it a bit more slowly than I do.

I feel rich when we have leftovers in the fridge.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:28AM
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Leftovers are the best! I know some people dislike them intensely, will not eat the same meal two days in a row. Send their rejected leftovers to me! Everyone knows they taste better. I do sometimes make casseroles or a pot roast, eat my fill and then freeze small portions so I have my own convenience food.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:32AM
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Once you learn some basic techniques, it's really not that much more difficult or time-consuming to cook from scratch. Mac and cheese for instance. You melt butter, stir in some flour, and add the milk. The hardest part is shredding the cheese, but you can buy shredded cheese or use Velveeta, which I think closely resembles Kraft mac.

I have a friend who uses the Lawry's seasoning packages for everything. She was using the burrito mix and I asked why she didn't just use chili powder and cumin and avoid all the starch. She thought that sounded interesting and wanted my "recipe".

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 12:15PM
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I with cooking is making a homemade meal from scratch. Once you a make a meal once the second time is way faster. I find it just as fast to make a meal from scratch as to cook a meal with pre-assemble parts. Cooking can be simple or elaborate. I keep my pantry stocked with the common ingredients and meal plan at the beginning of week. This makes cooking during a busy week a lot simpler.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 1:12PM
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Nah. I enjoy trying new recipes and cook from scratch virtually every day, and to me "cooking" in a strict sense requires use of heat, stove or microwave. A person who turns a pile of veggies into lovely green salad wouldn't be cooking under that definition, no matter how fast it came together.

But from a kitchen design point of view, even though most of us wouldn't normally think of eating takeout as cooking, to me anything to do with food that can't be done perfectly well in the living room or bathroom qualifies as "cooking"--i.e., that you need a kitchen for. Serving the takeout, refrigerating and reheating leftovers, pouring drinks, cleaning up the mess on the counter and the dinnerware, disposing of the trash, recycling the wine bottle. These are all functions that need to be addressed in any kitchen.

People who use their refrigerators to cool drinks, their counters to hold office equipment, and their ovens to store their ski boots--they don't cook.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 2:55PM
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I am one that says I don't cook! I consider cooking taking scratch ingredients and preparing a full meal, meat, potato, veggie or casserole kind of meal.

I cooked since I was 16 years old and for the next 30 years through my three children. I retired from that position, I can cook, I just don't very often!!

But once every couple weeks, I make a few "go to" favorites, crockpot or casserole complete meals, that reheat well. I have a freezer full of those little glass containers and that is what I take for my lunch for work and occasionally grab one for dinner.

My dinners are quick, on the grill or in the oven prepared protein type meal then I add a piece of fruit. That is all I need any more. I carry out a little, eat out occasionally, order pizza occasionally and my local market has a fantastic salad bar so I make myself a nice tasty salad once a week or so.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:12PM
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I'm like donaleen. I will cook if the actual prep is not overly time consuming. DH loves to prep, it relaxes him, and will cook all night if allowed to. I often have to say he needs to stay on task as I don't want to eat later than 10!

I would consider any kind of work beyond "remove from box, heat, eat" cooking. If there is any prep, measuring, assembling, or otherwise transforming any ingredient I would consider that cooking. So MW dinners, frozen pizza, frozen pot pies, etc not cooking, but boxed Mac and cheese, hamburger helper, salads, etc count.

I guess it boils down to if you have to put in any amount of effort beyond unoackaging and moving food, then you made it and you cook. Now to what degree is another story.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:18PM
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Wow! I'm starting to feel like I'm in the minority here.

I cook from scratch. Pretty much the only food boxes in our house hold crackers and pasta, and very occasionally cereal. I make a lot of our breads. We pretty much always cook, from scratch, at least one meal a day. Often it's two or three, though they're not all elaborate meals. My husband and I both spend a lot of time cooking in the kitchen. The preparation and enjoyment of food is a central part of our family life!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:34PM
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We do cook from scratch most nights for dinner. I don't bake, but we rarely eat bread, we aren't the sandwich type and don't do salad and rolls much.

We do use some convenience foods like canned tomatoes, canned beans, and frozen corn, but we always have fresh veggies to use, and the few nights we eat meat it is actual meat, not processed meat products.

I do know that most of our friends do not cook from scratch much at all. My step mother often cooks a piece of meat, dumps some frozen veggies in the steamer and opens a pouch of seasoned rice pilaf. I do consider that cooking, but on a different scale than from scratch. I find we are so accustomed to eating food we cook at home that the salt content in prepared or restaurant food is at times hard to take.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 4:59PM
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I always wonder this too!!
I consider mac & cheese from scratch "cooking" and making Kraft from a box is fixing something to eat...it requires cooking the pasta and melting the butter but I do not consider it cooking.

I have a friend with 5 kids who I adore who is always saying that she doesn't cook. Almost every meal she makes is homemade, though. Chicken breasts in a crock pot with some sort of sauce served with tortillas and fixings etc. She once told me about her super easy popular baked ziti she is always asked to make to feed a crowd and it turns out it involves making a bechamel and homemade marinara. That doesn't intimidate me much but the average person would not consider that "quick and easy" She just cracks me up. So, I totally agree with the OP it isn't easy to know what someone means when they say they don't cook!!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 5:30PM
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I interpret "I don't cook" to mean someone doesn't have the time, inclination/interest to make a homemade meal on most days. I have clients that do this. Their ovens are used mainly for frozen pizza, cookies or brownies (from a box).

Along the same line, pasta for the kids using butter or a jar of store-bought sauce seems to be part of the "don't cook" camp. On the other hand, if one takes the effort to at least make a sauce, that's cooking (even if they use a jar of sauce as one of their ingredients).

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:41PM
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It's hard to say where scratch is, though. Some folks grind their own flour. I don't, so is the bread I make really "from scratch"? Does dried store-bought pasta count as scratch? Unless you're doing it all off your farm, "cooking" is full of choices about how much to rely on prepared foods and processed ingredients.

My experience is people who say "I don't cook" mean "I won't cook," and they eat out all the time. But as the conversation above shows, different people mean different things by it.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 6:43PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Wow....cooking to me involves chopping something. Opening a box and adding water isn't cooking. Now, I don't cook every night as there are only the 2 of us, so, for example, the vegetarian chili I prepared yesterday was also dinner tonight. Breakfast this morning of whole wheat pancakes with cinnamon, apple and walnuts is cooking...opening a box of cereal and slicing a banana is not. This afternoon I baked blueberry scones. That's cooking...heating a muffin from the grocery store in the microwave is not.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:08PM
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"I interpret "I don't cook" to mean someone doesn't have the time, inclination/interest to make a homemade meal on most days. I have clients that do this. Their ovens are used mainly for frozen pizza, cookies or brownies (from a box). "

I agree... I normally don't cook. The poster above who says they don't spend much time on meals these days, and quantified that as 60 minutes or less, made my jaw drop. An hour of prep time blows my mind. Perhaps it's because we both work full time jobs, but I don't have the time most nights (or interest) to really cook a full meal. If I did, for the most part, I wouldn't enjoy it! :)

Now, I don't eat frozen pizzas, cookies or brownies.... For example, my oven was used today to cook butternut squash. Yes, that is technically cooking.. but it's one ingredient that took about two minutes to prep.

Yes, I cooked that squash, but... no, I don't cook. ;)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 7:15PM
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We always cook from scratch. DH was a wonderful cook, better than I was , when we met in 1970. He did stir fry and had all these exotic things in his pantry. I was SO impressed :)

I started cooking for us and used recipes and books from my Mom...solid Mid-western cooking. I made meatloaf and scalloped potatoes. Baked lots of cakes and made pies. That was just for the 2 of us.

When the kids started coming along I made all of their baby food and really got in to the baking of breads. I have never stopped. I made my first loaf of bread in 1977 or so , it was Challah, and I have made all of our breads etc since that time. I still make a lot of bread as it is our staple food. I make bagels and sourdough from my wild yeast starter.

We make lots of interesting foods every night. We also have good leftovers. We make home made pasta and pizza from my ciabatta sourdough. Our oldest son and dil are chefs and I know our son was definitely influenced by our cooking and our family tradition of having a seated dinner at 6 PM in our home every single night no matter what else was going on . Everyone had to be there.I also ran a food co-op out of our home for 8 years when the kids were in grade school/jr high. We had everything from 30# blocks of raw milk cheeses to 60# cans of honey, 30# buckets of peanut butter and 50# bags of organic flour. We had 5 gallon jugs of maple syrup and cases of juices and kefir and yogurt. It was wonderful and we all still talk about those days.

My other 2 kids are wonderful cooks and have very discerning palates. When we all get together food and the preparation of it is an important part of our time. We always laugh and say that while we are eating a meal we are talking about past meals and the ones we are going to have next !!

It is how a person is brought up in some cases. In our case DH and I moved way way far away from our upbringing and enhanced what we had in our parent's homes with all that we taught ourselves and all that we learned by traveling around the world and being willing to try almost anything.

The reason we keep on cooking lovely meals every night for each other is that we like to share the time and work together. It enhances our relationship and also sets a great example for the kids to see their parents working and creating together. The clean up is shared as well as the shopping. We use our bicycles to shop 1x a week and ride to the vegetable market first and then the store. We have a trailer from my bike that I gave to DH and I have my panniers that I use now.

We are now in our 60's and I don't see us changing our behavior. We have to eat but as far as we are both concerned it is going to be something great tasting and fresh and healthy not just something to hold body and soul together. It costs way less to make it ourselves than to purchase prepared foods and of course the taste is so much better. Also we have nothing else we would rather be doing.

This has been an interesting thread. c

bike with panniers:

sample load:

me with my trailer on the way to the store:

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 8:33PM
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"Cooking" is too generic a term. I would prefer the question "what do you do in the kitchen?"

I grew up overseas, with a mother who was an amazing cook, with a minimum 3-course, very formal dinner each night. First course, main course, salad, often cheese course, then dessert. We were supposed to bring a topic of conversation to the table. Dinner was always at 7 PM.

Fast forward 35 years... we do NOT do take out for dinner. My kids play a variety of sports and I will try to always put together at least 2 veggies and a meat. Hopefully salad too. (Poppy seed dressing = the old ketchup, IMO).

I love to cook for crowds and it's usually something I've never tried before (that's the fun of it!). I happily read through my cookbooks and mark recipe after recipe to try. For me, the fun is trying new things and pleasing the people for whom I'm cooking.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 8:46PM
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I don't do it all the time but cooking is making things from scratch. I'm not opposed to short cuts like prepared pasta but don't add water (or whatever you add) to a box cake mix and tell me you bake. I eat too much prepared food to be any kind of snob but I'm not going to pretend re-heating is cooking. Cooking a chop or steak and throwing together a salad is cooking. Worthwhile cooking is trying to get the optimum flavour out of ingredients - I walk a bit taller when I spice rub the meat and make a homemade dressing or toast some nuts for the salad but I don't walk tall every day.

Besides cake mixes (prepared icing goes hand in hand with that one) my other line in the sand is boxed pancake mix - silly because making pancakes from scratch really doesn't take anymore skill or effort than mixing them from the box but just the same I don't think making pancakes from a mix is cooking and would be discreetly horrified if anyone served me pancake mix pancakes. Ughhh I am a horrible snob - not a fancy food one but a plain cooking snob. Truth hurts but there it is.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Trailrunner- you are an inspiration. We ride but it is seldom functional. I am looking into a commuter bike - but might need to make sure it is Bob compatible.
Our local whole foods obtained a parking variance as everyone would take the bus or bike.... It didn't work so the built a companion store 4 miles away.

Although, I cook most items from scratch, I have not been impressed with my breads and zillions of wonderful bakeries around here to fill the void.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 10:38PM
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I've been cooking dinner for my family for 28 years, but I've had to relearn how to cook a couple times. The first was when DH was diagnosed with celiac disease about 10 years ago. Out went the muffins, cookies, homemade pies. (Occasionally I'll cheat with a gluten free pie crust from Whole Foods.) About a year ago, we became vegetarians, and that was another culinary upheaval, but a fun one. I love planning meals around grains, legumes, and what the CSA deposited on the doorstep this week. I have some great new vegetarian cookbooks to inspire me. I do spend a lot more time in the kitchen than I used to, but our food is a whole lot tastier than it used to be too. (And oh boy, I'm looking forward to cooking in it after the remodel!)

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:36PM
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P.S. I agree with a2gemini -- Trailrunner, you are indeed an inspiration!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Like most definitions -"cooking" can hold a spectrum for me - Mac n cheese from scratch *btw to another poster it is just about as easy as the box), to a 3 course culinary delight - in between can be making some really nice appetizers for an afternoon get together. Throw in some baking

Time, energy levels, seasons and schedules all drive the daily decisions. We do sit down nightly as a family.

I made marinara sauce tonight and a really nice meat lasagna (at my 9yo dd request)

I love to cook - I find it cathartic at times, creative and find it quite satisfying

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:08AM
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i'm one who posts 'I don't cook'. I used to cook a lot - mostly from scratch. Growing up we didn't use mixes or box stuff.
Now that it's just me I might do what could slide through as 'cooking' a few times a yr. That's it. otherwise it's usually a frozen meal, frozen veggies w/rice (maybe some chopped chicken in it), fried eggs for a sandwich, a grilled cheese.

Once or twice a yr I try to make the family dressing - like at Thanksgiving. These days I just use a few chicken breasts. It will take me about 3 days to put a 'dinner' together. the chicken and dressing prep one day, cook it the next and make potatoes - then the 3rd day the green bean casserole - and then I can eat that for several days. Can't manage to make it in one day anymore. I also might make a mini meatloaf a few times a yr.

I eat lots of salad, turkey sandwiches and sometimes take out from the local diner (one meal from there is 3 for me).

Probably a third of my 'meals' are from leftovers from my sister. Her dh cooks (and it's just the 2 of them) so she usually puts a bit aside and freezes it for me, or their leftovers they don't want to keep eating. I love it - it's just heat in the mw and eat a home cooked meal then.

I don't call what I do 'cooking'. The few times a yr I might be able to call it 'cooking' I could count on 1 hand and have a few fingers to spare.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:21AM
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This is a great question!!

I suppose, to me, "cooking" is when one significantly alters the state of the original food.

Sometimes, a meal is boxed pasta, jarred sauce and salad from a bag. To me, that's not cooking, even though the pasta gets cooked. Throwing a few boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the steam oven on top of some sliced vegetables, with a splash of marinade and a sprinkle of herbs is just as easy, but transforming raw chicken into dinner feels more "cooking"ish than cooking dried pasta. :) But I suppose part of that is that I generally make my own pasta sauce, not that there's anything wrong with Rao's or Dave's.

"Real" cooking, for me, is mostly from scratch, but while I know how to make ketchup and mayonnaise, I'm not about to when there's Heinz and Best Foods. And, yes, I could make and can my own pear cardamom chutney, but why should I when the local store has it in jars for the taking? My meat sauce is very different, and vastly superior, to anything available at the store, so worth the making. The jars in the cupboard are for quickies and when there's no sauce in the freezer. I suppose it's mostly condiments and sauces that I buy, and not all of those.

I can buy fresh pasta that's better than my own, so I only make my own pasta when I'm looking for something special I can't buy, or making my great-aunt's egg noodles. I make my own pie dough, but ever since Rhome410 turned me onto using the food processor, I haven't been able to convince myself to get out the pastry blender. I think my old recipe was flakier and rolled out thinner, but the FP is the best thing ever. Sweets are easy to make, but I usually buy for convenience and variety. Ditto breads. We have great bakeries right in our grocery stores, and other bakeries that sell to the grocery stores.

With all that, I almost never "cook" more than two meals in a day. We have lots of simple meals of salads or plowman's lunch, or something previously cooked and frozen. My mother taught me when I was very young that that was no point cooking one chicken when it was as easy to cook two and freeze one for later. :)

So, yes, I generally cook from scratch. And yes, I use bought things. And yes, I don't cook lots of the time. And that is why the best ovens were important to me, and so was a great microwave. :)

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 1:44AM
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a2gemini and justmakeit !! Thank you . I love being self-sufficient . a2...you have mail...I sent you some info on bike trailers. c

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 9:35AM
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I love cooking. But I actually dread it right now because we are staying in temporary housing while our house is being built. It's a drag because many of my tools are in storage, the smell goes all over the place including my closet, even the lowest setting send the fire alarm off. I am counting the days until I move into my "Kitchen Stadium".

That said even in here I make sushi, braised short ribs, Lamb vindaloo...ect. I consider it cooking, but not they way I wish I could. There was a time I tried a new recipe everyday. But now I am on auto pilot til we move. Also I have a newborn and toddler so some days I am making her Trader Joe mac and cheese, but will add tuna, peas, broccoli and Parmesan so I feel like I am cooking...lol.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:09AM
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My definition of 'cooking' is pretty broad. I grew up with a mom who cooked everything from scratch, including all our breads for a few years, and if that became my sole definition of cooking, I'd disappoint myself every day in the kitchen.

So: if it's served at home; and if there is more than just cutlery and dirty plates to clean after the meal is over, I cooked. If I boiled ravioli from the Italian grocers, heated sauce (sometimes homemade, sometimes from same grocers), chopped vegetables and/or dried fruit and crumbled some cheese to put in the salad greens.....yeah, I'll give myself credit for at least 'making' dinner.

Probably four nights of the week I do a scratch dinner; two nights is more meal assembly than cooking, like the pasta example; we'll eat out or order in one night.

When I have a real working range again, I look forward to doing a lot more baking and cooking again.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:07PM
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Trailrunner - I will have to check mail - but right now in the middle of getting house back in order - I am on the spare bedroom - where we hid everything while the kitchen was being redone (other than the zillions of boxes from the kitchen which lived in the great room)
PS - Kitchen is done but not a good picture day....

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:12PM
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Having fun reading your posts.

Random thoughts...

I understand more about those who truly don't cook.

Cooking means different things, along with prepare, make, and assemble.
Supermarkets are giving us more choices for meals.
Some cook from scratch on a regular basis. From scratch means different things.

For those making mac and cheese from scratch, does it actually taste as good? Don't yell! I just told a chef that I usually don't like homemade sauce, the jar is better, lol.

Time is a big factor. In our new kitchen (still no working sink) I really hope to start planning meals and actually do more cooking. I actually miss it. Its hard to cook a meal when everyday at 5:30 pm I have to pick up DD from sports practice all year long.

Often my attempts don't come out to well. Usually because I get distracted or interupted. Hope the new kitchen layout will help with that.

I feel a little inspired to attempt more serious cooking (whatever that means) after reading your posts.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:27PM
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I guess another way of looking at it is how much you use prepared/boxed/frozen foods. At our house, not much. The only thing in the freezer like that is Asian dumplings, which I love. And in the pantry, there is some Jiffy mix cornbread, rice pilaf, mac and cheese and cous cous. Those things often go out of date before we use them.

Now, if I had kids to feed and I was working full time, I think it would be different. It's too bad that when your life is too busy, cooking is one of the things that has to more or less go. What I am trying to say, is that the stress means you REALLY need good food but there just isn't any time. And kids are generally difficult to cook for. At least I think so.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:36PM
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Gone are the many years of raising pigs, turkeys, chickens, pheasants and an acre garden to process but I do cook from scratch most nights. I do enjoy going out to dinner also. I guess I am in the middle somewhere as I can't say I love to cook but we like good healthy food.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:57PM
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I'm sitting here in the throes of another 'my back is out' session. *sigh*

This is when my big freezer cooking comes in handy.

I raised 4 kids & a hubby (who does not cook)...made most things from scratch. Ground my wheat...made tortillas...made every baked goodie known to mankind.

I swore my only son was NOT leaving this house until he learned how to cook. His wife thanked me often ;)

Those days are pretty much over since it's just the hubs and me. But, I still cook big when I do cook & freeze in meal-size portions. It's great to pack hubby's lunches with all the prepared stuff. I try to have at least 5-6 choices. Sometimes I don't.

I'm trying to maintain a 160-lb weight loss in the past 6 years so having foods prepared ahead of time is KEY for me. I also like to prep fruits & veggies, etc. for the fridge. It's what I call 'prepping'...so much easier to use it if it's easy to use. Most of that weight was from being addicted to sugar & eating all those goodies I made for the family. I don't eat sugar anymore so that is what is helping me. But...I do have to be careful since I love salty & crunchy things now! =:0

I was already planning to make my Chicky Parmesan when my back went out so I had to do it in short spurts of laying down with a rolled towel to de-spasm. Not fun! I just did not feel like Chili or Split Pea Soup w/Ham.

I make huge pots of Arrabbiatta Sauce, Enchilada sauce (made from my homemade cooked salsa using Arbol chilies) - stuff like that. Lots of homemade soups/stews. Red Chicken Curries...Indian Dals...anything with legumes, beans, etc.

My one weekly cheat for me is Amy's frozen macaroni & cheese...love it!

We live 300 miles from Anchorage and Costco so we have to make use of a well-stocked pantry. We buy grains, rice, beans, lentils, etc. in bulk & store in 5-gallon buckets. I use the one local store to fill in fresh produce & things I can't store in the pantry.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 1:39PM
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Great conversation... To me, cooking includes chopping (and respective compost) and very little or no trash from packaging since almost everything is made fresh from farm/CSA ingredients (we have a veggie, fruit, pasta, and coffee CSA share for my vegan cooking and a meat and egg share for my husband's cooking) or from bulk items that I have in the pantry (beans, grains, spices, flour, sugar, nutritional yeast, oils, vinegars, etc.).

We also LOVE leftovers in our house so cooking does not have to happen every day!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 3:43PM
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Once upon a time in the early years of my marriage, I thought I was going to be Martha Stewart. I made homemade blueberry jam, did sun dried tomatoes, and even bought into a half of a cow one year. Fast forward real life and having to be the breadwinner and putting in lots of hours, and I at least can still claim to "cook", but just not many of those time consuming recipes that I used to do.

I do tend to do lots of "serial cooking", as I term it. Or "leftover transformation challenges" as my sister puts it. I will do grilled chicken breasts one night, and will do enough to have leftovers to make a chicken pasta dish or stir-fry for the next night, which will provide enough to be able to have leftovers the next night. If I'm going to spend more than an hour on a weeknight making dinner, then some of that time is going to be subtracted for other meals later in the week in the form of sorta creating my own pre-prepared convenience foods to make the rest of the week's meals be quicker.

I did a pork butt in a crockpot for one meal, then shredded the leftovers with bar-b-que sauce and made slaw and roasted potato wedges for the next night's meal. The third night's was the broth and some shreddings of the roast still in the crockpot with some black beans added to simmer all day and to have black bean soup for that third day along with a spinach and mushroom quesadillia made from whole wheat naan instead of tortillias.

Now, days off are the times that I will make bread, or do sushi, or try a new recipe. I love cuisines from around the world, and do my own version of fusion on a regular basis by incorporating the different flavors and spices into some of my old standby recipes.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 4:52PM
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So much fun to read everyone's responses!

I never really thought about what "cooking" is, and I don't know that it's important to me to have a definition, per se. I prepare a lot of meals without actually heating anything...e.g. yogurt and fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, plus the preparation of meat and veggies for my husband to grill -- he cooks, but without my prep, that couldn't happen.

I like to cook a lot of things from scratch, but I do use supermarket ingredients such as dried pasta, butter, cheese, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, some canned beans, etc. I do buy supermarket bread, rolls and tortillas, but occasionally make homemade bread or focaccia or tortillas.

I prefer fresh veggies, but do use some frozen; I cook beans myself and freeze them, but also use the occasional can of black beans.

I like to bake - cookies, brownies, bars, muffins, scones, quick breads, the occasional pie or cake. I do make homemade pie crust. We occasionally order pizza, but usually just make it at home.

My stand-alone freezer is full to bursting now -- besides a lot of beef, chicken, shrimp, spices, and butter, I've got black beans and garbanzos that I cooked, homemade Cornish pasties, homemade applesauce,and some cheeses. Tonight for the family's dinner, I heated up some of the pasties and applesauce (I'm going out with my book club...yay!).

We do use some convenience foods...cereal, bread, Greek yogurt, the occasional frozen dinner, and some Purdue chicken fingers (hey, nobody's perfect!). Some canned soup. Granola bars and fruit cups for the kids' quick lunch box grabs.

I didn't always cook this much from scratch -- it's evolved over they years. I used to use more convenience products, but have sort of gotten away from it over time. My mom cooked from scratch a lot, but used convenience products, too.

Interesting that someone mentioned just-add-water pancake mix. I don't use that often -- sometimes I mix up the dry part of the pancake recipe, divide in in half, and portion the halves into airtight containers so I can quickly add milk, eggs, and melted butter to make from-scratch whole grain pancakes on a weekday morning. However, I usually keep a box of just-add-water mix in the pantry for those days when we are simply out of eggs or milk.

Bon appetit, everyone!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 7:31PM
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I also say interesting thread....
People who "don't cook" have no idea how to make a meal out of a whole chicken. If handed a bag of potatoes and asked to make a potato course would have no idea how. If given a pound of fresh asparagus would wash them and buy a bottle of Ranch....and call that cooking.
People who cook know how to make "raw materials" into a meal. They may not do it every day, but they know how!

I have a friend who "doesn't cook"...really doesn't cook! If she's hungry about noon, the first thought is where to go to grab a sandwich. If asked to fix a dish for a pot luck, she goes to the deli counter of the grocery store and picks up a container of potato salad or a store bought cake decorated in psychedelic colors....and wonders why her stuff is not eaten.
Her mother didn't cook...she was raised on take out restaurant food. Thank heavens she married someone who knew how to cook a turkey or a roast.
But alas, he died and she now is again in total take out mode.
Cooking means taking raw material and making something edible. It is very surprising to me the number of people who have no idea how to make something to eat out of, say a side o0f salmon. It doesn't have to be "gourmet"....just edible.
Those are the people who don't cook!

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 8:57PM
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Wow. According to some of you I cook! Makes me feel better about myself! ;)

I'm one who says "I don't cook." I guess to me cooking involves the range somehow. I know how to cook, I just don't do it anymore given my schedule and lifestyle.

I'm vegetarian so eat lots of salads. I buy the boxed spring mix type of lettuce (so I'm not even washing and tearing up lettuce), grated cheese (so I'm not even grating cheese), and sometimes open up a can of garbanzo or black beans. I do wash tomatoes! :) (But usually buy cherry or grape so I'm not even having to cut them.) At best I'm "throwing a salad together" but I don't consider that cooking. I do manage to put a frozen Amy's or other frozen veggie entree in the MW. And on the weekends I sometimes "cook" oatmeal in the MW. Again, that still leaves me in the "I don't cook" category it seems to me.

I will cook for the dogs when necessary, i.e., when one is sick and needs boiled chicken and rice.

If what I do is cooking it is a far cry from what my mom did - both in terms of prep time =) and taste! =(

I don't eat out much at all. I've been a vegetarian for many, many years, long before it was easier to eat out like it is today, and so I got used to not doing so very often.

So, to me "I don't cook" doesn't mean I don't use my kitchen, and doesn't mean I eat out - it just means I'm not "cooking" something fun and interesting on the range or in the oven.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:27PM
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In my opinion and the way I think most people use the term, "cooking" is used to describe the process of preparing a meal...whether it requires heat or not.

I do a little of all that's described above: sometimes I used prepared foods (like spaghetti sauce), other times I cook from scratch (chili, most meat courses), I often use frozen veggies (studies have shown they actually retain more nutrients than "fresh" veggies in the supermarket - different than growing your own), and some meals don't require cooking (salads, some sandwiches). [I admit I wish I had more time for "from scratch" cooking, but I do what I can!]

Regardless of which of the above, I consider then all "cooking in the kitchen" b/c they're preparing a meal.

OldBat - we also have always insisted everyone eat dinner together, regardless of sports practices/games, robotics, scouts, music rehearsals/lessons/performances, etc. If that means an 8:00pnm dinner, so be it. I think it's important for the entire family to sit down. I grew up w/a mother who believed that as well and who taught me that all meals should consist, at the very least, of one green and one orange/yellow veggie - and I have continued the tradition. My mom always had a meat and potato as well since my dad insisted on both, but I go more for a protein (usually meat/poultry) + two veggies and, occasionally a starch (baked/mashed potatoes or yams or sweet potatoes or rice or pasta).

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 3:54PM
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Yvonne Albertyn_Brazil

I have to admit "cooking" to me is the same as "heating". And, even though it's just DH and me, and we eat really late due to my work and commute schedule, we always have dinner together - no matter what the time. But heating is similar to me as cooking - putting dinner on the table is the priority, and having it tasty and healthful is the second priority. I don't really care how we get there.

Trailrunner, you are indeed an inspiration.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 5:45PM
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