Thursday, May 6, 2010

Family Dinner Table: The Original Social Network

/PRNewswire/ -- Home may be where the heart is, but for cooking enthusiasts - many preparing for Memorial Day gatherings and other ways to kickoff the unofficial start of the summer cooking season - home also is where they fill the stomach.

In the current economy, more consumers are skipping eating out at restaurants in favor of cooking at home, according to a new national consumer survey by family-owned Masterbuilt, the maker of quality fryers, smokers and grills.

"People are returning to the family dining table. It's the original social network," said John McLemore, Masterbuilt CEO. "There's nothing quite as satisfying as sharing your news of the day with family or friends over a home-cooked meal. That builds real community. I love Twitter, but you can't digitally pass someone a fried turkey leg or a bowl of low-country boil."

Cooking is an important, fulfilling part of people's lives, especially in an era of celebrity chefs, cooking television channels and instant access to recipes on the Internet. More than four of every five people surveyed (84 percent) report cooking or preparing a meal at least once a week. Other findings:

-- 86 percent say that cooking at home is more important to them now than
it was last year at this time

-- 81 percent say that family dinners are more important to them now than
it was last year at this time

-- 31 percent say that eating out at a restaurant is more important to
them now than it was last year at this time

Consumers also are looking for new, creative ways to enjoy food. More than nine in 10 surveyed (92 percent) are experimenting with new recipes or are trying new ways of preparing food.

"As we get closer to the Memorial Day weekend, that's the signal for summer cooking, and a perfect time for people to try new things they can serve friends and family. Versatility is an important ingredient for any meal," said John McLemore, author of "Dadgum, That's Good!" a cookbook with Masterbuilt family favorites and Southern recipes that will be available in the fall from Concept, Inc.

More than four of every five people surveyed (81 percent) agreed that versatility is important when trying a new type of cooking equipment.

"Home cooks may want to fry one night or steam or boil or grill on another night," McLemore said. "When you entertain, you want variety. You want to increase the number of ways food can be enjoyed, whether it's meat, seafood or vegetables. The best kind of table is one that has a little bit of everything."

Food also is a way for people to please or impress families or guests - and more than half of those surveyed (54 percent) identified themselves as "cooking enthusiasts" who actively seek out new information about cooking or food-related products. Another two in five (39 percent) said that they ask their mother for cooking advice.

"I'm not surprised that people look for cooking information from all kinds of sources," McLemore said. "I grew up in a family that loved cooking. We'd share food and recipes with family and friends. And when we share a recipe that makes your mouth water, we share a bit of our family history."

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