Nancy Harmon Jenkins, noted cookbook author and journalist (and one of the co-founders of Oldways), recently posted on Facebook that she was stunned at a recipe for tomato salad in the September 2013 issue of Cucina Italiana2 ½ pounds of fresh tomatoes, cut in wedges, dress with olive oil, salt, and a fresh herb. Nancy pondered, “Have our national cooking skills sunk so low that we actually need a recipe for this?”

The answer is yes.

Despite a surplus of cookbooks, free recipe websites and cooking shows, the sad truth is that many of us need to be reminded of how simple and easy it can be to make delicious, healthy food.

Perhaps more disheartening and more important is a lack of interest in preparing family meals.  As I wrote this blog, I was sitting on a plane next to a person who told me, “I don’t eat healthy; I don’t care; I don’t see the purpose; and I don’t have any interest.” Any cooking she does is likely considered to be a chore, rather than a celebration of life and human connections.

Rather than despair over this basic tomato salad recipe, I take hope in it. If a simple recipe like this one in Cucina Italiana can make even one person imagine that he or she can produce a salad full of flavor, a salad that sparks the discovery that great taste can be married with simplicity, perhaps it will arouse interest in attempting another dish, and then another and another and another and another. My hope is for inspiration.

At Oldways our answer, our hope is that heritage will provide inspiration – through traditional foods and ways of shopping, cooking and eating that nutrition scientists also tell us are the healthiest ways to eat.  But at the root of it all is — cooking — the fun in preparing and sharing something delicious and healthy for the people you love, including (especially) yourself. Roll up your sleeves, head for the kitchen, and start slicing up those tomatoes!

- Sara

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