How much labour do you figure you put in in the kitchen each week?
You can measure yourself against the Canadian average of 6.4 hours a week, as aggregated by Statista.com, a leading online statistics portal based in Hamburg, Germany.
That makes us eighth in the world, after top-ranking India with an average of 13.2 hours a week, followed closely by the Ukraine, at 13.1 hours. Makes you wonder if we weren't as lucky as we are to have so many people with Ukrainian and Indian backgrounds amongst us cooking up delicious storms, where would we stand as a nation in terms of time devoted to homemade meals? (Interestingly, China and the U.S. rank closely, averaging 5.8 and 5.9 hours a week, respectively.)
Of course, as Statista rightfully notes, the numbers are impacted by all kinds of factors, not least of which is whether you cook at home because you have to, or because you love it. Just over a third of women and just under one-third of men say they're passionate about food and cooking by Statista's research.
Whether cooking is a labour of love for you, or just plain labour, the Labour Day long weekend always puts me in a space that says, hey, life is short and the livin' should be easy, even as summer fades.
So what can a person do to defy the law of averages and keep time exposure in the kitchen to a minimum, or at least something below the national average?
For one, keep barbecuing, since the equipment is on the patio, which is nothing like being in the kitchen. Light, butterflies flitting by, fresh air — they're all waiting just for you somewhere near a barbecue grill.
Two, picnic. And now with Whistler's food truck program rolling out the goods throughout weekends in September (See Pique's Aug. 27 article by Brandon Barrett for details) you don't have to bother gathering up a picnic at home.
Three, and I mean this seriously: Consider eating less. Or at least eating fewer of what I call serious meals, and/or milking the serious meals you do make to last longer by serving smaller portions, leaving more left over for another go round. There's lots of room to negotiate here.
According to the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, a study in Denmark has revealed just how much more those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world have been eating over time at home. And, yes, it follows the same big trend as eating out.
A study done by the Danish Cancer Society tracked calories and portion sizes in recipes over 100 years. Portion size measured in calories was determined by analyzing 21 classic Danish recipes in 13 editions of the famous Danish cookbook, Food, from 1909 to 2009. The conclusion: Mean portion size in calories increased significantly by 21 per cent over the past 100 years in the analyzed recipes.
But here's the stunner: The mean portion size in calories from a composed homemade meal, meaning a meal put together with various dishes, increased by 77 per cent. The increase in calories from meat was 27 per cent; starchy products a whopping 148 per cent, while vegetables increased by "only" 37 per cent.
As for those "fun" fast-food snacks that tempt us, an average soda pop 20 years ago was only 6.5 ounces and contained 85 calories; today it's more than tripled, to 20 ounces and 250 calories. And your basic serving of French fries logged in at about 2.4 ounces and 210 calories. Today, it's almost seven ounces, and 610 calories.
Last but not least, make it an easy-peasy Labour Day weekend (and the rest of September and beyond) by not sweating the small stuff. Serve one-dish meals with fresh fruit or berries for a finish. Or double your favourites when you bother to cook, and freeze the rest in easy-to-reheat portions.
Here's a cool — literally — recipe to get you started.
Remember all those gorgeous fresh tomatoes you got last week? Well, here's a great recipe from Kathy Wallace of Pemberton, the star employee at Helmer's Organic Farm who's worked there for years (recently promoted to tractor driver) and has her own garden filled with, you guessed it, tomatoes. It's delicious served cold, but serve it as you like, as any easy meal should be.
Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who likes to look on the light side.