What is Good Food?
On last week's podcast I spoke with chef Rollie Wesen. He's the executive Director of the Jacques Pépin foundation, as well as an assistant professor at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
During our conversation we spoke about what "good food" is. This touched on seasonal cooking, and families having a sit-down meal together (or not). This side conversation didn't fit into our full-length conversation, but it was something we're both passionate about, so it made more sense to release it as a stand-alone mini-episode.
But this episode isn't just about good food. If kids aren't learning to cook in school, and they're not learning to cook at home, are we only one generation away from people not knowing how to cook, or what good food tastes like? That's what we discuss in this episode.
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What is good food? While it's definitely subjective, I think there's probably some things you and I could agree on. Hopefully it's delicious. It would be great if it was good for you possibly raised locally and or in a sustainable fashion. Seasonal eating is great. In today's short episode, we're just going to scratch the surface there. This is Chris spear. And you're listening to Chefs Without Restaurants, the show where I speak with culinary entrepreneurs and people working in the food and beverage industry outside of a traditional restaurant setting. I have 31 years of working in kitchens, but not restaurants and currently operate a personal chef business throwing dinner parties in the Washington DC area. So I didn't intend to have this conversation per se. If you listen to last week's episode, you heard my conversation with Rollie Wesen. If you didn't, I think you should check it out. It's linked in this week's show notes. Rollie is the executive director of the Jacques Pepin Foundation, as well as an assistant professor at Johnson Wales University in Providence. So our conversation naturally revolved around culinary education. And towards the end of the conversation last week, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to share with the audience before we finished up, this is something I usually do in case there was something I missed. And what he wanted to talk about was, what good food is. Raleigh posed a hypothetical question, which is, if kids aren't learning to cook in school, and they're not learning to cook from their family, are we just one generation away from not knowing how to cook? Our assumption is that less people today are sitting down as a family to eat together, which I think is probably true, at least from you know, when I was a kid in the 80s and early 90s. And what are the ramifications of that, if any, and this is a judgment free zone. I know many of my listeners, obviously work in the food industry, you might not be home for dinner. And if you do have a nine to five job, maybe you have kids like I do, you're probably running all over the place. In my house, we have karate, twice a week, basketball twice a week, Ban twice a week after school tutoring twice a week and swim practice. So I get it more than an action plan or something instructional, I just wanted this quick episode to be more of a reminder or a reinforcement, if you will, about the importance of at least teaching the younger generation about what good food is, what does an inseason strawberry actually tastes like? This part of our conversation just didn't fit in with the overall podcast about the Shaka pen foundation last week. But I didn't want to cut it out completely. So while this could be an hour long conversation, or it could be stretched out through a whole season. So if you're someone out there listening, and you want to come on and talk about this in depth, we can definitely do that. Or you can connect with me via social media. As always, I love feedback. I'd like to know what food looks like in your house these days. How often are you sitting down at the table with home cooked food? Do you care about seasonal eating? If you have kids, too, they know how to set the dinner table properly. Find me on Instagram at Chefs Without Restaurants and either send me a DM or comment on the posts you see promoting this episode. Because this is a short one. Let me get out of the way here so you can enjoy the episode. As always, thanks so much for listening and have a great week. Before we get out of here today, is there anything we didn't talk about or anything you want to leave our listeners with?Rollie Wesen:
You know, one of the things that worries me about the, you know about the next generation when I think about where we are now. And I don't know, you know exactly what your experience was. But I know that for many people that are you're my age and your 40s 50s 60s. When they look at their childhood, they say, Oh, well, I had dinner with my parents, you know, six and a half or seven nights a week. And you know it for in my case, we had a pretty big garden in the backyard. We grew our own vegetables, we we would pick those vegetables and have them on the table that night. I remember when I was a kid being you know, kind of tired of the fact that we were going to have tomato string beans and corn every single day all summer not long. And now I'm like, absolutely yes. If I could have just picked vine ripened tomato string beans and corn every single night. I have no problem with that. You know, and I think about like the next generation and I have a daughter who's 19 who just started college this year. And it's not so much true for her because we forced her to have dinner with us. But when I look at her generation, I think that that paradigm is completely flipped. Whereas when I was a kid, I had dinner with my parents six and a half nights out of seven. In my daughter's generation. It's six and a half nights out of seven. It's convenience food, it's grabbing go it's it's whatever is easy, it's fast food. And maybe once a week you sit down with the family and everybody eats together. What worries me about that is that those kids are not learning how to cook from their parents, and they're not learning how to cook in school. And that means that we're only really one generation away from like a generational loss of knowledge of like, what does it mean to cook what can you cook what it what a What does good food tastes like? You know, when we look at the grocery store now, we were so proud of ourselves like, oh my god, the grocery store is so diverse. Every grocery store has 35,000 or 40,000 skews in it, you know, different products. But there's exactly one variety of strawberries. And yes, that variety of strawberries is available 365 days a year, but it doesn't taste like a strawberry any of those days, it does not taste good. You can't even tell when it's in season and when it's not. So what I'm personally worried about right at the moment, and for the next generation is, are we going to know what good food tastes like what it's supposed to taste? Like? Are we going to know how to handle that food? Are we going to be able to cook it? Are we going to learn how to cook it? How are we going to teach people how to cook if they can't learn from their parents, and they're not going to learn in school. And I think this is dangerous because it goes it feeds right into public health crisis. I mean, several of our most fatal chronic diseases are diet related. And if we're not teaching people how to eat whole healthy, fresh foods, how to cook whole healthy, fresh foods, and we're not imbuing them with the idea of food creates community if food creates family, and we can build all those great community and family structures around good whole healthy, fresh food. We're really missing out on something and I think it's I think it's really worrisome for for our society in general.Chris Spear:
100% after my wife, she graduated with her associate's in culinary from Johnson wells, but she went on to get her Bachelor's in nutrition and dietetics and became a registered dietitian, she has since gone on to get her master's in public health, you know, and she spends all day in, you know, counseling with people who have diet related, or you know, diseases and illnesses that can be potentially moderated through diet, exercise, healthy living, and that but like the seasonality thing, people all the time, you know, it'll be October and they'll say, Well, I really love asparagus, can you do something with asparagus? And it's like, no, yeah, like, I mean, I could go to a grocery store and probably find it, but it's not going to be good. You know, like, corn everyone's used to like corn, you get a bag of frozen corn. Like of course you can have corn year round, but it's like, right now corn is amazing right now, like get the fresh cobs and have that. But we have we have friends we have neighbors who like at dinner time. It's it's like a free for all like the kids can just like they say sometimes they have cereal for dinner. It's just like, there's no dinner time. The kids go out and play, you know, they work their home. And then when it's time for dinner, like you can just go get a bowl of cereal and sit down and eat at your leisure. And, you know, sometimes one of their kids is over our house. And I feel like he really craves home cooked food. And you know, I love it. Because they'll poke around the kitchen like, Oh, that smells good. What do you have? And I'm like, Oh, I'm you know, making you know, fajitas for dinner. He's like, huh, he does. And it's like, you can almost tell that he's like, he's really interested in this. And it's almost like he's waiting for you to invite him for dinner. So sometimes we'll send a text and say like, Hey, do you mind if he stays for dinner because, like, you know, not to judge anyone or their situation or why they're not doing a dinner, but we have a sit down dinner in our house every night. And if there's a convenience food, if we buy like a pre breaded shrimp that we throw in the oven, we are probably making succotash from stuff out of our garden, there's fresh components, you know, but every night there is a dinner time we have we eat on the early end, we usually 530 Every night and there's like a dinner and my in laws live with us. So we have six people, and it's really nice. And every night we get together. And sure we do takeout sometimes. But we really make that the focus. I grew up that way having a dinner in my house. And I grew up with a love of cooking because my mom cooked and even when it wasn't fancy, I was still you know, we were very much into eating a meal at the dinner table. And you're absolutely right. People think that that's kind of weird when they'll say Oh, well, what are you doing? It's like, well, we're having dinner. Oh, I'm like, yeah, it's dinnertime, like we have a dinner time in our house and we set the table with, you know, the kids have to put napkins and forks out and we're going to serve a dinner to you. And I think that that's something that I would like to see happen more often.Rollie Wesen:
Yeah. And I also think it's contingent upon you know, folks like you and me and those of us who love food and appreciate good food to continue inspiring other people to do that. invite people over make it good, make it delicious, make it make it from scratch, you know, show the value of of sharing, sharing food together. You know, unfortunately, I don't have much patience for people who don't care. I remember having a be at a party and chatting with one of my neighbors and she said oh, I'm really kind of like a meat and potatoes girl. I could eat meat and potatoes every day and I like my meat well done. And I was like, Well, I guess we don't have anything else to talk about that because because we're not going to be friends like that's you're not I'm not inviting you over for dinner, because we're not going to do that.Chris Spear:
I can't think of anything I'm more excited about this week than to just get together with another couple and their kids tonight and have dinner that's that's the good stuff and I think we You are missing out if they don't do that, what better? What better way to connect them around, you know, a plate of foodRollie Wesen:
absolutely brings people together smooths out our differences.Chris Spear:
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