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Keeping Up With Maury
Doesn't anyone cook anymore?
by Maury Feren

I'm trying to figure out what is happening to the food scene in Cleveland and nationally.

Doesn't anyone cook? Or, why don't I meet anyone who talks about his or her cooking or baking? Of course, this is a general statement. There are a few exceptions.

But, let's look around and see what is happening. Where once we took pride in mastering one form of cooking or another, we are more prideful now when we find a new restaurant and can rave about it. What's the great distinction about that?

I should not be critical because I am not faced with the choices women have to make today. You have the superwoman with family and a major job in a big corporation. And then there's the single mother with one, two, or four children trying to fill the spaces. Also the everyday mother in a regular family unit with a husband or a live-in, who is trying her best to keep things together.

Why has it become so difficult? What's the difference between yesterday's woman and today?

I find in my own life experience that the women I hire here have very little household experience. Even the simplest tasks like boiling eggs or preparing simple broiling becomes so difficult. There is a simple answer. They have never been taught by their mothers that one day they would be called upon to take care of themselves and others.

These are young, fairly educated women I come in contact with. I have five shifts of 40 hours who take care of my needs. Only two, my oldest employees, have the capability I talk about. It is difficult for me to comprehend.

It is worth noting that my wife Bess was a terrific, innovative, low fat cook. She made it her job to see that I ate correctly and observed the necessary caretaking that has allowed me to be here today.

Now here's the rub. I was known as a produce specialist for many years. Many people around thought I was a good cook as well. I appeared on many food programs with the assumption that I cooked. TV was in its infancy when I first appeared on regular programs 50 years ago. I was never called upon to validate that assumption. I just worked around it and it succeeded.

If Bess had not been such a great cook, I would have made it an important goal to learn how to cook. Since everything was done for me, I failed in that regard. In fact, I was invited to be a judge many times and a very popular TV personality offered me a position on his program as a chef and produce expert.

Of course, I couldn't take it.

There were other opportunities that I fumbled and made some inroads, but in total my entire career would have changed if I had taken the time to study the cooking scene.

That is exactly what has happened today. Those of us who can afford it pride ourselves in being able to go to the newest restaurants. The best one for sushi, fusion food, pizza, pasta, or what have you! Those people who can't afford the high numbers stumble through the day trying to take advantage of the good buys in fast food. I can't blame them. It's easy and much cheaper.

Eating out-trying to eat healthy-is costly. It just can't be done. The only way to beat it is to try making your own simple meals at home.

We have become a restaurant syndrome. When I visit with one of my friends, we generally want to enjoy a meal together, so we choose a nice quiet restaurant to spend the time (quiet restaurants are hard to find). I am always astonished at how many young people are there.

I know it is not cheap and I wonder how you can eat out so many times with a budget that just keeps you under the line. Is that why the credit card industry is so successful?

Here is the impasse. TV food programs are more popular than ever. If a celebrity, say Michael Symon, Mario Batali, the young Rachel Ray personality, or anyone that writes a cookbook, it becomes a sellout.

Who are the people that support those programs and why buy the book if you never use them? It is beyond comprehension. I'd love to see a change.

Let's get those cookbook authors to work on their own listeners and supporters so that we can come back to some form of cooking and baking that we did in those good old days. It doesn't have to be much and I'll be grateful for any movement that puts this into perspective.

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