By: Hannah Walker, Director of Government Relations, Food Marketing Institute
America is quickly becoming a land of amateur chefs, as evidenced by a recent trip to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). The school has become a magnet not only for aspiring professional chefs, but anyone who enjoys turning on the stove and trying their hand at a new recipe. The CIA essentially celebrates food—the art, politics, science and yes cooking of food.
The school bookstore is packed full of cook books from everything you ever wanted to know about grilling, cooking for dietary restrictions, learning to cook Indonesian or the art of pairing the perfect wine with your meal. Shoppers inspired by a campus tour that outlines the school’s curriculum and various majors and academic programs quickly snatch up the latest kitchen gadget and cook books to take home and finally try to make that standing crown rack of lamb.
One doesn’t need to travel to the CIA to see firsthand our great national interest in food. A quick trip to the grocery store shows how far we have come in our interest in the cooking arts. The supermarket industry has been a leader in increasing the consumer’s access to new innovative recipes, interesting ingredients from around the world, and now more frequently through, in-store dietitians and nutritionists to help the home chef prepare creative and delicious foods while adhering to unique dietary restrictions or needs.
September marks National Family Meals Month. Not only are we celebrating the important familial, health and societal benefits of families sitting down to break bread together, we are also celebrating the interesting and diverse meals they choose to eat together. Mom’s tried and true meatloaf recipe has taken a turn for the creative with the addition of buffalo meat or possibly ground turkey. The classic side of mashed potatoes can now be found punched up with earthy truffle oil or smoked Gouda bought at the local grocery store. Recipes and dishes that were once thought could only be enjoyed at the finest restaurant are now found on family dinner tables across the country, all made with ingredients and recipes found at the grocery store.
Those fine family meals are for everyone. In my role as a government relations director at FMI, I have the privilege of working on food and nutrition programs that help those most in need. Programs like WIC ensure that moms in-need can deliver on their child’s most basic need—a home cooked meal. WIC is just one of our nation’s federal nutrition programs that help those who need it the most be able to gather their family together around the dinner table for a family meal. It’s important that we maintain these nutrition programs and help more families access them.
Whether you’re a graduate of the Culinary Institute or America or a single mother of three, we can all celebrate family meals.