Cooking is an Activity Too

Image Credit: Kate SommersImage Credit: Kate SommersThe issue of time - specifically, how long it takes to cook and eat fresh, local, and organic food and how little time most people have - comes up again and again in my discussions with parents and friends who are considering making a change in their eating habits. (Not surprisingly, the other topic that comes up again and again is the cost of good food. Much has been compellingly written about the true cost of cheap food, and I encourage you to check it out.)

I think a lot about the choices we make when it comes to our schedules and the things we're willing to schedule and spend time on. Time and time again, people tell me that they just don't have the time that preparing and eating good food requires - shopping, cooking, sitting down to eat, and doing the dishes (nevermind growing the food) just take too dang long. And I agree - being mindful about our food choices does take time.

But let's take just a minute to consider what we choose to do with our time instead. So many of us race from activity to activity every day, from soccer practice to play practice to book club to the gym to whatever. These are all worthwhile activites - every single one of them. I don't want to give them up either. But what I realized was that, no matter how hard we try, we will never have enough time for all of the things we want to do. And I find this incredibly freeing.

I find it freeing because it reminds me that we are constantly choosing priorities, and that we're always giving something up. Here's an exercise I'd love to see more people do: when you create your family calendar, schedule dinner like it's an activity, even a priority. Give it 2 whole hours. Schedule whatever you want before or after - hockey, gymnastics, chess club, blog writing - but give dinner its due.

When I consider what I most value in my life, the things that are most important to me, my family is always at the top. Not playing my guitar, going to the movies, riding my bicycle, traveling - not even sustainable food. It turns out that, when dinner is an activity, the probability that my whole family will be involved is pretty high. We pick potatoes from the garden together. We wash and peel carrots together. We sometimes cook together. We eat together.

All right, I'll admit to overstating my case to make a point. There are nights when my wife and I put the kids in front of the TV while we make dinner, and others when one of us works late and the other serves up hot dogs. But we eat together as often as we can, and we make it a point to consider dinner a family activity, even if it means having to skip something else.

How about you? Do you consider dinner an activity worth making time for, or is it something you do on the way to something else that's more important?