Why Dad Should Cook

I’ve noticed an interesting pattern while I do my farmers market demos. Every now and then a couple, obviously a husband and wife, will stop by my booth. I’ll go into my pitch, tell them who I am, and offer a taste of what I’m cooking. The woman will say “Dad Cooks Dinner. Hmmm. What an interesting idea…” and look pointedly at her husband. He will suddenly be fascinated by something in the trees on the other side of the market, and start edging away from my tent.

The first few times, this was funny. After a while, I found it a bit sad. First, I don’t like to get my fellow guys in trouble with their wives. Second, and more important, I love to cook. In this example, both the husband and wife see cooking as a chore that they don’t want to do, and the wife is “stuck” with it. I’m writing this blog to encourage people to cook more, and they’re looking to cook less.

Cooking less is what got us into this mess we’re in, with factory farms focused on quantity and not quality, rising obesity, tasteless out of season tomatoes, and “fast casual” dining joints replacing family dinners.
I think the the tasteless tomatoes are the worst part of that equation.

I agree with Michael Ruhlman’s assertion that someone in every family should know how to cook, and do it often. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, it shouldn’t be fancy; we just need people to have the skills to make real food for themselves and their families. I’m writing this blog to show that it doesn’t have to be the wife or mother. I cook because I enjoy eating good food, enjoy the challenge of making something that tastes good, and enjoy sharing it with my family.
Diane is a good cook herself, but she knows how much it means to me, so she lets me do it. She’s turned her attention to being the family baker.

Now, I don’t want this to come out wrong.  I don’t cook because it’s “good for me”, like exercise and eating my vegetables.* Or, at least that’s part of it, but not the real reason.

*OK, maybe I’m weird, but now that I’m a cook, I do like to eat my vegetables.  I’m channeling all those talks my mom had with me when I was a kid with that one.

I cook because I love it.  I’m a computer programmer by trade, and sit in front of a keyboard all day.  Cooking gives me something real to do, something with my hands, something that changes based on the seasons, the ingredients, and my mood.  When I get home, I make dinner to relax.  It helps me focus on what I’m doing right now. It gives something tangible to my family, something I’ve made with my own two hands, to show them how much they mean to me.

I cook because I love to eat. I couldn’t afford to eat as well as I do, if I paid other people to do the cooking.  Doing it myself?  Now, that I can afford. What’s your favorite thing to eat?  Learn how to cook it – that’s how I started.  I wanted to learn how to grill a steak that was better than what I could get at a restaurant.  Once I mastered that, I wanted to know how to make good barbecued ribs.  Pretty soon I was reading cookbooks in my spare time, and figuring out how thermal dynamics relate to the transfer of heat to protein.

And that brings me to: I love to cook because it has changed my point of view.  Food and cooking give me a window to world history, physics, farming, biology, politics, chemistry, and cultures across the globe.  (If they make something worth eating, I want to learn about it!) I care about these things, because they affect my cooking, and I care about my cooking because it affects these things.  Cooking has tied me into the larger world around me.  And, for an introverted computer geek, that’s a pretty big thing.


What I’m trying to say is…food is central to the human experience. Feasts bring family and friends together to celebrate. Everyday dinners are the common meeting point for a family in our hectic schedules. We cannot afford to give away responsibility for our food. That is why Dad should cook, or Mom should, or (preferably) both should. Cooking for ourselves and our family is too important to leave to anyone else.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

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10 Comments

  1. After nearly 5 years as a personal chef, I still run into the misconception that you have to be wealthy to have a personal chef. We are in Akron, OH, after all.

    A few of my clients certainly are wealthy, but you would be surprised to meet the majority of my clients, who are ordinary, middle class folks who do value time spent around the table with the family over dinner, so they outsource the cooking to me.

    Because I am an expert shopper, and I co-ordinate my meal packages of entrees and side dishes to maximize all ingredients, with practically zero waste, some clients actually end up saving money because they aren’t throwing away food that never gets prepared, or ordering expensive take-out because they are unprepared on a busy weeknight to answer the ‘what’s for dinner?” question.

    I have the pleasure and privilege of helping people enjoy local, seasonal, delicious meals, ready to eat, for about what they’d pay per meal for a meal at Applebees.

    I have clients newly diagnosed with gluten intolerance, diabetes, and other conditions which mean a new way of cooking and eating that often overwhelms them.

    So while I agree that cooking is more than a meal on the table, and that more people really should learn to cook and prepare healthy, additive free meals, the reality is that no matter how much we feel cooking is a passion, many people feel it’s a chore.

    steps off soapbox now…. Tami from Dine-In Diva Personal Chef Service

  2. Michael Singerman /

    Mike,

    Well said. I’m the main cook in my home, and I enjoy it for many of the same reasons you point out. very nice post.

    Thanks again for all you do.

    Mike Singerman

  3. @Michael Singerman:
    Thank you! I’m glad to know I’m not the only cooking dad out there, and that I’m helping you out.

    @Tami:

    I may be fighting the tide here, promoting home cooking to people who view it as a chore…or more likely, I’m already preaching to the converted. But, I’m not giving up on home cooking without a fight. (If I do, you’ll be the first to know, because I’ve seen your cooking, and I’m signing you up as my personal chef.)

    Programming note: I need to apologize to Tami; her comment was cut off by my comment system. Sorry about that!

  4. I started cooking years ago due to my wife’s work schedule conflicting with hungry children. I started because it was necessary and ended up enjoying it! I have also had some friends say “My wife said you cook a lot and now she thinks I should”. I still do the majority of the cooking and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m always learning and trying out new things which is why I subscribe to your blog! Keep up the great work! We “dad’s who cook dinner” are a rare breed.

  5. I think that this was one of your most important blogs, in that you capture why many folks, and an increasing number of men, find that the reward for preparing food for their families goes beyond just better and healthier cuisine. Like you, I spend my day at a computer, and the daily ritual of preparing the evening meal allows me to shift my focus, and to practice an art that my family deeply appreciates. Few acts say “I love you” more than putting a great meal on the table. My eighteen year old son has inherited not only my love of good food, but the belief that preparing good food is a worthwhile skill. I know that as he launches into his own life, he is prepared to take care of himself, and when the time comes his family. You can’t beat that.

  6. @Pat:

    Yes, we do seem to be a rare breed. But I’m encouraged, from the comments we seem to be less rare than I thought.

    @Guitarzan:

    Congratulations on teaching your son such an important life skill! I’m working on my kids, but they’re still too little to do much. I’ve got Ben, my 9 year old, cooking eggs, so that’s a start.

  7. I love your perspective, Mike!

    I admit that I do most (all?) of the cooking at home, maybe because I think there’s something deeply satisfying about turning a bagful of weird vegetables into something that smells wonderful, tastes even better, and just so happens to be good for you. And it’s not from a box. Cooking makes me feel connected to my immigrant roots, like finding that subconscious link to the past that knows exactly how to turn the plainest, simplest fare into hearty sustenance.

    Of course, for you guys it may go even deeper. Cliche or not, men seem to be naturally drawn to the fire pit, which is why grilling is perceived as being so ‘manly’. From that perspective, it’s really just a short leap from fire-cooked steaks to fire-roasted vegetables, isn’t it?

  8. Ed in Ottawa, Canada /

    Thanks for the blog. As a Dad who also cooks dinner, I find I just enjoy cooking food every day.

    My wife and I are less inclined to eat out these days, because we’re looking forward to the meals we have at home. My daughter’s favorite food is corn on the cob. I can’t think of a better example of a dish where home cooking reigns supreme.

    We have some nights that are pretty simple: my daughter’s skating nights are usually submarine sandwiches or tuna and cheese, but there’s usually something complicated on the list, too. Stock-making is one of my favorite weekend activities.

    And there’s nothing like trying something new and having it be really great. Anyone who has just tasted homemade glace de viande or Julia Child and Simone Beck’s braised onions for a beef bourguignon knows what I’m talking about!

  9. @Ed in Ottawa:

    Thank you! Always good to hear from another dad, especially one who may be even more of a cooking fanatic than I am. (Your own glace de viande? I’m impressed.)

  10. Ed in Ottawa, Canada /

    @MikeV @ DadCooksDinner.com:

    Thanks for the reply, Mike. You’re probably more accomplished than I am, but stock making is definitely something I’ve internalized.

    When you make beef stock, don’t throw the bones away when you’ve finished. Add as much water as you did the first time and then simmer for about 8 hours or so to make stock like you normally would.

    This “second stock” is what I use to make the glace de viande. Essentially, you reduce it until all the water in gone. You have nothing but this amazing tasting meat protein. It’s very sticky and when it cools, and it sets quite stiff. Cut in into cubes and keep in in the fridge or freezer almost indefinitely. I got this technique from Jacques Pepin’s La Technique, a truly inspiring manual of French techniques.

    Thanks again for all the great articles.

    Ed in Ottawa