The other day, I was making a quick batch of macaroni and cheese for dinner after church. It occurred to me as I stirred the cheese sauce that I can't remember my mother ever making mac and cheese from scratch. Her version came from the bright blue box with the yellow lettering.
My mom was part of a generation that was sold a whole new way of life. Married in the mid-sixties, she came of age during the biggest convenience push of the twentieth century. Every magazine, television commercial and grocery store sung the praises of boxed meals, two-step cakes and pre-packaged foods.
Consequently my mother would have been more likely to walk naked down Broadway than to make a meal from scratch. She used condensed soups, packets and mixes, bottled sauces and pre-made dressings.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not criticizing my mom. She made amazing meals for her family with love and with the best information she had, and she was a product of her time. I also think she reacted to her own mother's practices of canning, baking bread and cooking for an army by taking advantage of the convenience food.
When I got married and began to run my own kitchen, I was amazed to learn how easy it was to cook from real and natural ingredients. It's been a gradual process, and I am constantly educating myself on even better ways to feed my family.
My way of cooking is probably closer to that of my grandmothers than that of my mom's, and I think that's been passed onto my daughters as well. As my oldest daughter said recently, the pendulum has swung again. And we really have the best of both worlds: we can choose natural whole foods and cook them using more efficient tools than our grandmothers had. (After all, I don't relish the idea of cooking over an open fire or on a coal stove!)
A brave new world, indeed!