Earlier this week I read a statistic that fifty-three percent of Americans will rely on food prepared away from home for part or all of their Thanksgiving dinners by buying restaurant takeout food.
Whoa! That doesn’t even count all the people who go to markets for prepared food. (And it doesn’t count those who will have it catered. My husband and I once ate the leftovers of Billy Bob Thornton‘s vegan Thanksgiving dinner when we visited a former client of mine. But I digress.)
It’s a disconnect for me, because I don’t know anyone who’s not cooking. The people I hang with are buzzing about their upcoming dinner party, or what they’re making to take to someone’s house.
Everywhere I look, though, the media thinks Americans (mostly women) plan to cook. Newspapers, blogs and magazines scream with helpful hints, tips and techniques, and tons of recipes for bird, sides and pies. Even Sam Sifton at the New York Times will delay his meal until after 3 p.m., sitting at his disk to answer 911 calls. Are we food-obsessed writers out of touch?
I wonder who these people are who don’t cook for Thanksgiving, and why not. According to the National Restaurant Association, people have specific reasons for dining out. “Consumers living in smaller households and households without children are more likely to dine out on Thanksgiving. Males are more likely than females to eat at a restaurant on the holiday. Generally, younger adults are more likely to use restaurant takeout items as part of their Thanksgiving meal at home.”
What about the others who don’t cook? Perhaps they are too old, too stressed for time, or too afraid? Do women feel guilty if they don’t cook? My sister-in-law doesn’t. She takes a frozen pre-made pie to her friend’s lavish homemade meal every year. She’s happy not to bake, even though she knows how. Surely others feel overwhelmed by the planning, the shopping, the housecleaning, and the clean-up.
And for those of us who write about cooking and develop recipes, are people really going to make the dishes we present? Must we promote elaborate sides with pomegranate seeds, miso paste, and fennel, as though they’ve come from a restaurant? If we show up with whole sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar, will others think we’re lazy or unimaginative?
In politics we know about the red states and blue states. Maybe we foodies have a similar division between us and those who do not cook. And maybe we’re out of touch about how more-than-the-other-half lives, at least on Thanksgiving day.