Bring back health and memories

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Bring back health and memories


My friend has been married for five years now. He and his wife are in their early 30s and both have jobs. Their gas bill is close to zero because they mutually agreed not to cook at home. They are a “chore-less” couple. “We eat out mostly,” they said. “We have lunch at work and meet up for dinner. We like to find trendy spots and nice restaurants. Even coffee shops and convenience stores offer a wide variety of sandwiches, salads and rice rolls. Why should we spend our time cooking? On weekends, we order in as well. There are so many options to choose from, and they are better than microwaved food. We also take our laundry to the dry cleaners, where they wash, dry and deliver. There are many couples like us. It could change if we have a child.”

His story made me think about mothers in the old days. They were “superwomen” who made all of the spices and condiments at home, filling jars with kimchi, pickles and salted fish. In their kitchen, they could make nearly all the dishes that can be found in cookbooks, providing the family with delicious and healthy meals filled with love and care.

However, that was only possible with extended families during farming-oriented days. In an industrial society, home cooking is only a shadow of the love in the past.

An English friend introduced me to the typical home-cooked meals enjoyed by working-class families in the United Kingdom.

“Spread butter or mayonnaise to keep the bread from getting soggy and pour on baked beans from a can. With tomatoes and chips on the side, it is a staple dish, invented to provide enough calories for laborers at an affordable price after the Industrial Revolution,” he said.

Each culture has different nostalgia for home cooking. As the American joke goes, “Our hotel offers burnt toast to make sure you feel right at home.”

For International Women’s Day on March 8, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied 29 member countries on how much time people spent on housework, including domestic chores and child care. Korean men spent the least amount of time on housework in the world, only 45 minutes a day, less than one-third of the OECD average of 141 minutes.

The unfair division of household labor is a concern, of course, but household chores may go extinct altogether. Like the Kinsey reports on sexuality, we may need to research the dietary life of Korean households. To the generation that has lost home-cooked meals, such a report may bring back health and memories.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 11, Page 31

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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