Lately I've been thinking a fair bit about how my eating (and cooking) habits have changed so much from when I was growing up. And, to be fair, I think probably everyone's have - but mine haven't changed the way the general population's has changed, at least, I don't think so.
To begin with, there's eating out. Now, according to what I read in the news, this is a major change. According to what I've read, people in Western Canada eat out on average 1.6 times a week, while in Atlantic Canada and Ontario is twice a week, and in Quebec it's 1.4 times. (I'm referencing this blog for the info.) I likely don't eat out that often, I'm maybe twice a month - but ok, that's fair. Compare that with Americans, who according to this blog, eat out 4.2 times a week!
Now, compare this to when I was growing up. I can actually remember every time we ate out, because it was a very big deal! We dressed up, it was budgeted for, and it was probably at a Chinese restaurant, because we got more bang for our buck there. We ate out maybe once every few years! To be fair, we did have 8+ kids, so eating out wasn't a small affair, anyway. Even if we were travelling, we'd pack a lunch or make a lunch. I remember when McDonald's first came to Saskatoon - and that you could get a hamburger, small fries and small drink for a dollar. (To compare, I was making 50 cents an hour babysitting around that time.)
However, it's not just eating out that's different. The foods I cook are quite different than what I grew up eating. I was raised in a family with British roots. Even though I grew up in Saskatchewan, where perogies are served at every buffet, wedding and potluck these days; when I was growing up, I had never tasted them until my sister, Ruth, started dating Walter, who has Polish roots. His mother was horrified that we didn't know what they were, and sent down two ice cream pails of home made ones. (And they were delicious!) Broccoli was an exotic vegetable, and I had never tasted sour cream until I went away to boarding school for high school, and it was one of the options to have on your baked potato. I remember the first time our family tasted pizza (and we weren't all that impressed, either).
When I was a child, we had porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast most week days, pancakes on Saturdays and cold cereal on Sundays. We always came home for lunch until we were in high school, when we brown bagged it. Lunch was frequently homemade soup with homemade bread, however canned cream of tomato with grilled cheese sandwiches was comfort food. Supper was usually a hamburger casserole of some kind, or meat and potatoes. Sunday dinner, when guests were always invited, was a roast with potatoes and gravy and a lettuce salad. Common vegetables were peas, carrots, potatoes, corn, cabbage and beans. Bread was served at every meal, usually homemade white bread. It was all very good, filling food, and most of it was grown in our garden, baked in our oven, or purchased locally (at the Coop).
Compare that with the way I cook now. To start with, I'm cooking for 1-4 people, not for a family of 8-12. That might make a difference right there. But even so, the menu is pretty different. Most days I do have porridge for breakfast, but it's Red River cereal, not oatmeal. (It helps that I'm allergic to oats, though.) Lunch is pretty much always reheated leftovers from the fridge. (In the microwave - something we didn't have when I was growing up). And supper is based on a salad! My sister Ruth and I usually plan out a week's menu together, grocery shop and cook together when we can (on Saturdays if I'm not working, but we'll fit it in whenever we can). We usually make two salads and a casserole, and have the rest of the week planned out. We rarely make a lettuce salad, as it won't keep over a week, but make all kinds of weird and wonderful ones using vegetables and other grains that we would have never heard of when I was a child. Things like sweet potatoes and black beans, or quinoa and currents, or beets with dill pickles and sauerkraut! Delicious, but definitely not something we would have even considered.
In addition, because I am lactose intolerant, and many other family members can't handle milk products, I cook with Rice Dream instead of milk. Because of many other family food sensitivities, I cook from scratch, never using things like cream of mushroom soup or onion soup mix - things that were used all the time when I was growing up.
Finally, although I can make bread, I usually buy it - but never white bread. I prefer pumpernickel, or at the very least light rye or 100% whole wheat. I occasionally make homemade buns, but generally make them at least 50% whole wheat. I keep my bread in the freezer, because I never serve it with a meal - if I have bread, it is part of the meal (as in sandwiches).
I don't know if the way I eat now is healthier than the way I ate growing up, but it certainly is different.