Not Cooking in Our Really Nice Kitchens

Julia Child in her pegboard kitchen


It’s an oft-told tale: acres of gleaming granite and stainless steel, a six-burner Viking range pumping out 30,000 BTUs of fire power, the 22-slot block of Japanese knives from a hot new bladesmith; and the dual door Sub-Zero is stocked with frozen pizza and Hot Pockets, red-boxed Stouffer’s, Trader Joe’s burritos, and pints of Ben & Jerry’s.
It’s not just an amusing anecdote. The more we spend on our kitchens, the less we cook in them.

According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value report, the average cost of a midrange kitchen remodel in 2011-2012 was $57,494 while the average upscale project cost $110,938. Kitchen square footage has doubled over the last 30 years, giving ample space for high-end appliances and specialized cookware. We spend giddy hours online drooling over the design possibilities on display at Houzz and Pinterest, and are consumed by the choice of whisk from the 55 different shapes and sizes for sale at Sur la Table. We love everything about our kitchens, except we’re not so hot on the actual cooking.

For all that expense, we’re not cranking up the Viking very often. About half of our food spending is in restaurants; just 11% of Americans eat two hot, home-cooked meals a day. And cooking drops as income rises, so a mere 2.4% of households earning more than $120,000 have those two hot meals at home—and presumably these higher earners represent the households with the pricey remodels.

That home cooking ain’t what it used to be.
We spend just 27 minutes a day on food preparation— less time than it takes to watch an episode of Iron Chef America. Our entrées are prepared from scratch 59% of the time, down from 72% in the 1980’s. We’ve even decreased the number of ingredients per dish, from a 1980’s average of 4.4 to a current 3.4. Scarily, about 10% of adults use the microwave for virtually all of their cooking.

When it comes to your kitchen, are you looking or are you cooking?


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