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Gen Z: Cook at your own risk
Sarcastically Southern
Gen Z cooking

In a world with Doordash and UberEats, many members of the younger generations — Gen Z, in particular — either don’t know how to cook (or choose not to learn), or just choose not to cook. 

I get it. Ingredients are a pain in the a** to buy, and with the food costs on the rise, it’s sometimes cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries. Add that to the fact that we’re all working to make a living, pay rent and buy said groceries, and it can be exhausting to go home and cook after a day’s work, especially when you and your spouse or significant other have varying schedules. 

I’m a Millennial, born in 1985 — I’ll wait while you do the math — and I have friends that range in age from early 20s to mid- to late 40s. The younger friends tend to be more likely to order takeout or eat easy meals at home than those who are closer to my age and older. 

My parents cooked at home a lot, and we had Sunday dinners at my Granny’s house each week. I always enjoyed visiting my aunt and uncle, not just for the love and fun I had with them, but because I got to choose the menu most of the time. One of my favorite meals for my Aunt Jennie to cook was fried pork chops, rice and gravy, peas and macaroni and cheese. 

She’s tried to teach me a thousand times to cook homemade gravy, but it’s apparently a skill I’ll never master. Take my Southern card, I guess, but I can make do with the packet gravy as long as I have gravy. 

One of my friends from work, Hunter, has recently moved out on her own and is definitely a Gen Zer. She’s not one to have a pantry full of ingredients that she can use to put together a meal; she’s shopping for them prior to cooking. 

And, bless her, sometimes she doesn’t know what she’s doing, even with the recipes. (Yes, she knows I’m writing this!) In fact, I’ve started to anticipate her Facetime calls around 5:30 p.m., asking me questions about substituting ingredients when she doesn’t have them, for advice on what a cooking term means and more. 

I didn’t exactly watch my mom cook all the time to learn how to cook, but I have tried my hand at a lot of different techniques. Some of them I’ve picked up from social media or online videos. I haven’t really told Hunter this, but I’m probably not her best guide into the world of cooking. 

She and I have joked around about her “cooking show,” because it can be pretty entertaining for me to watch her struggle to master a technique or make do with the tools she has on hand. For example, when she first moved out, she didn’t think about the need for a can opener. One of her first recipes called for canned green chiles, so she improvised — by stabbing the top of the can with a pair of scissors and pushing it open with the scissors’ edges. I think I laughed so hard I cried. 

The joke turned into us naming the “show.” It’s called “At Your Own Risk with Hunter Carter” — meaning, eat it at your own risk. 

I regularly get questions about what I’m going to cook for dinner or for recipe recommendations. I’ve shared recipes with Hunter and another Gen Z coworker, Mary Hayes Palmer, for them to try. When I gave Mary Hayes a list of all the ingredients she’d need to cook the recipes I was recommending, she said, “I don’t have all that s*** at home!” I took for granted that I have a pantry stocked with staples like pasta, rice and other ingredients. Mary Hayes has often eaten Easy Mac for dinner — with unicorn-shaped pasta! 

In fact, before writing this, I got a message from Hunter asking me for some recipes that don’t involve chicken. I don’t mind giving advice and recommendations, but I truly do wonder why many members of Gen Z don’t want to cook. It may be because they haven’t quite settled into domesticated life. (Hunter jokes that she’s being domesticated.) I don’t think it’s laziness, because many of them show an interest in cooking, and it’s certainly not the unavailability of recipes, with social media at our fingertips. 

All I know is, there are most likely going to be many more episodes of “At Your Own Risk” — and I can’t wait.