SINGAPORE — I may have seen the future.
In the tiny, densely populated city-state of Singapore, nearly nobody cooks. Singaporeans masters of innovation and adaptation eat out. All the time.
Not just in full-service restaurants. The mainstay for the masses are dozens of small food stands clustered in food courts within walking distance of practically everybody.
Vendors representing the regions multi-ethnic heritage sell dishes from India, Malaysia, China and other parts of Southeast Asia.
The food is cooked on the spot using fresh ingredients.
You cant miss these food bazaars on the streets as well as in below-ground, air-conditioned malls. Theyre packed at lunchtime.
Theyre open 24/7.
And theyre cheap. My stir-fried vegetables and rice plate cost about $2. Another noodle and vegetable dish cost the same.
Juice stands offer blended drinks made from fresh watermelon, pineapple, lemons, oranges, papaya, mango, coconut and other tropical fruits.
My lemonade made with freshly squeezed sugarcane and lemons cost you guessed it $2.
My students for the week a group of Singaporean and Malaysian health managers, most with young families told me that eating at food courts is the way to go for households with four or fewer members. For them, the cost is the same as buying the ingredients and preparing meals at home.
Theres another factor. Most kitchens here arent vented to the outside. That means smoke or steam from stovetop cooking has nowhere to go.
With few exceptions, kitchens and homes are tiny. While a small number of wealthy Singaporeans live in single-family homes, the majority of people live in high-rise, leased flats, most with less than 1,000 square feet.
But even the wealthy eat out. Its a way of life that saves time.
What about nutrition? How healthy is Singaporean fast food?
Obesity is a problem in Singapore just as it is around the world. Among the steamed vegetables and fish theres plenty of fried food, too.
I had no problem, though, finding healthy choices everywhere I went. I even found myself eating steamed greens and rice at breakfast some days, as good or better for me than my usual cereal and almond milk.
Will the American home-cooked meal someday be a thing of the past? Time will tell.
Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.