Today's New York Times had an article in its commentary section called "Real Moms Don't Cook." The writer observed, "it seems that everywhere -- in commercials, films, books -- I find the conflation of parental love and cooking. Somehow, we've come to believe that mothering can be smeared onto a sandwich, nurturing tucked between the wings of a garlicky roasted chicken." Yet she begs to differ; her own mother, who never cooks if she can help it and subsists on takeout food, is the best mother ever.
She's right that we're reading a lot these days about cooking as an essential part of childrearing and family management. That's because the ability to put a nutritious meal on the table is becoming an endangered skill, the consequences of which are often obesity, malnutrition and the loss of quality family time.
But the writer's wonderful mom, who lives in Manhattan and apparently orders only the best in takeout food, is not the mom whom the commentators are unhappy with. Nor are they unhappy with any mom who manages to supply her family with healthy food, no matter whether it comes from the kitchen stove, the takeout window or the ready-to-eat counter at the grocery. No, they're mad at the moms who feed their families an endless stream of greasy fast food, high on sugar and sodium and low on fruit and vegetables.
We must acknowledge that these moms may have lots of good excuses for their conduct. Perhaps they're too busy at their jobs to cook real meals in real time. Perhaps they have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables because they live in food deserts. Perhaps they can't afford to take their families to restaurants with healthy menus. But no matter what the excuses, these moms (or dads) are doing their families no favors.
I can sympathize with moms who at the end of a busy day don't want to spend another hour getting dinner on the table. I have been there myself, when I came home from work exhausted and frazzled. I can also sympathize with moms who just don't like to cook. My own mom was like that, although she repressed her unhappiness and managed to put meals on the table every night.
Nevertheless, feeding your family good food is so important to their health and welfare that I think every mom and dad has to man up to the responsibility. Perhaps the government should buy every family a slow cooker. Even parents with minimal kitchen skills, long working hours and hardly any disposable income can fix beans and rice with tomatoes in a slow cooker, ready whenever you are at dinnertime. It might get old seven nights a week, but so does cheeseburger with fries, and this would be much cheaper and much more nutritious.