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Recession Fueling Home-Cooking Trend

September 19, 2008 11:14 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
More people are cooking at home as a result of the slow economy, but some food industry insiders predicted the trend before the economy took a turn.

Americans Go Back to the Kitchen

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Market research firms have noticed a national trend of people preparing food at home to save money. But many have been eating in restaurants for years, leaving their kitchen cabinets devoid of the proper utensils and cookbooks. According to the Associated Press, “sales of cookbooks, inexpensive cookware and the basic foods needed to concoct a meal” are up, while magazines and Web sites devoted to cooking are thriving as new home cooks scramble to stock their kitchen shelves.

The numbers speak for themselves: nearly 12 percent more Americans are dining out less to save money in 2008 than in 2007; in May 2008, Bon Appetit magazine newsstand sales were up 39 percent from the previous year; and Borders Group Inc. and Amazon have both seen growth in cooking and wine book sales this year.

Interestingly, Borders representative Mary Davis told AP that sales of so-called “comfort food cookbooks,” which typically include baked goods and desserts, have increased this year.

"These are dishes that require a time commitment to prepare and bake, suggesting people are staying at home," Davis said.

The San Francisco Chronicle has been onto the home-cooking trend since 2006. The newspaper’s food writer Michael Bauer wrote that his section’s Thanksgiving coverage had “become more basic over the years” because readers were not “as familiar with or comfortable in the kitchen.”

But Bauer also mentioned a meeting he’d had with Cook’s Illustrated founder and PBS cooking show host Chris Kimball, who said he felt a change coming as he toured the country. Among 20 and 30-somethings, Kimball noticed a resurging interest in learning about cooking techniques.

Background: Food and cooking in America

Americans’ eating and cooking habits have undergone several transformations over the past four decades, according to Raleigh, North Carolina newspaper The News & Observer. In the 1960s, Julia Child emerged as a TV cooking show star, and “the first celebrity chef to champion cooking from scratch,” says cookbook author Jean Anderson, who was interviewed for the article.

In the 1960s and ’70s, Americans tried international fare, vegetarianism and classic French dishes popularized by a new generation of culinary school graduates. The 1980s and ’90s saw the popularization of home cooking with “high-end kitchen appliances and other gourmet kitchen features.”

Today, says Anderson, Americans are “conflicted” over food, and influenced by a battalion of celebrity chefs. Home cooks are still learning, for example, how to eat fresh and local, while integrating prepared foods like frozen vegetables and dry pasta.

Furthermore, Americans are doing their best to cope with the recession, whether it means driving less to save money on gas, or cooking at home more often to avoid the expense of eating out.

Related Topic: More Americans growing their own food

Reference: Guides to cooking, food and gardening

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