A Plea to Cook at Home: Fast Italian Food


(photo: cooking at home begins with basic ingredients; olive oil is key)

“By becoming a cook, you can leave processed foods behind, creating more healthful, less expensive and better-tasting food that requires less energy, water and land per calorie and reduces our carbon footprint. Not a bad result for us — or the planet.”

Why Don’t Americans Cook at Home?
The two sentences above are part of a well written article by Mark Bittman, the esteemed journalist and food writer.  Bittman’s main thesis is centered on the notion that Americans do not cook enough of their own food, rather they rely on ready to eat foods prepared via fast food outlets, restaurants, or mega-corporations.   In short, Bittman believes that we’ve lost the basic ability to cook at home and, for many, were never taught the basic life skill.

My view on the topic is rather straightforward as I believe we don’t, despite recent efforts to improve the fresh food system, have a tradition or passion for food in the United States.  Children are not taught to eat well because they are not feed well; all fueling the myth that making food at home is expensive, laborious, and simply nor worth it.  
Solving the Food Crisis in America
As Bittman argues, I think there’s an easy way to solve the food crisis in America and it doesn’t involve money (a common answer to many problems).  The answer is to simply start cooking at home and begin your home cooking adventures with simple dishes.  Bittman mentions lentils, stir frys, and chopped salad as basic dishes.  I happen to think the entire Italian food repatoire is a good starting point as acookblog.com author states, “One of the things I like best about Italian food is that at heart it’s open-source peasant food; whatever is on hand can be made to work”
So, where do you start if you don’t come from a tradition of making food at home?  My suggestion is to start with a few basic kitchen essentials (can’t cook without tools) and then dive right in with the following dishes:
  1. Pea and Rice Soup (or Risi e Bisi) 
  2. Escarole and Bean Soup
  3. Chicken Cutlet
  4. Pasta with olive oil, garlic, and parsley (or Alio e Olio)
  5. Baked Fish with Savory Breadcrumbs
The five recipes above all have a very easy learning curve, require ingredients than can be found in most parts of the country (including escarole, I believe), and can be made in under 20-30 minutes.  The price of entry, compared to prepared food for a family of four, is also relatively low.  

So, become a home cook or encourage the folks in your life to make good food at home.


  1. Hey, thanks for the link (though it needs fixing; it’s acookblog.com). I agree completely; people need to cook for themselves and their families regularly. Kids need to grow up eating real food made from real ingredients.

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