Despite all the cookbooks we write and all the encouraging we food writers do –online and off — to get people to cook, Americans are heading to the kitchen less often, and cooking less.
And I’m not alone in that belief. No less than The Washing Post has described as “The slow death of the home-cooked meal.”
Here are four trends that show Americans are cooking less:
- There’s now more eating out than cooking in. Last year was “the first year on record that Americans spent more on eating out than on buying groceries, according to the Department of Commerce,” said a tiny piece in California magazine. Packaged meals are the new focus. There’s even a new term called “grocerants.”
- People are buying cookbooks for other reasons than cooking. They might aspire to cook from them, but then don’t. They might think cookbooks are beautiful enough to display as art. These reasons were clear in my examination of reviews and coverage of my own cookbook last year. It is now acceptable, in major publications and online, to recommend a cookbook without cooking from it.
- The bestselling cookbooks are personality driven, not recipe driven. Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman is last year’s queen, selling 782, 186 copies of her three books, according to Publishers Weekly. She sold more than three times as many copies of her books as Thug Kitchen and Ina Garten, who are also personalities.
- Snacks are becoming more important than meals. Yet most cookbooks are focused on meals.
What does this mean for cookbook publishers? They don’t seem concerned. Cookbooks still sell well. As cookbook authors, do we not care if our readers ever make a recipe, as long they buy the book?
What can we do to make readers want to cook more? Do cookbooks need to change, fundamentally?
(Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)