When you think of "down home"-style modern American cooking, you probably imagine a happy family sitting down to a hot, steaming meal of mom's famous KFC Valu-Meal. But now, American families are getting back to their roots, by pretending to "cook" food.

"Cooking," an ancient practice that dates back to prehistoric tribespeople and persists today in the backwards corners of the world that do not own microwaves, is the act of mixing "ingredients" according a very specific "recipe," applying heat, and transforming these seemingly useless objects— fruit, vegetables, chicken that has not been rendered into nugget form— into "food." This bygone tradition long ago disappeared in America, ever since we split the atom, won the war, and invented the drive-thru.

We do, however, enjoy a nice "retro" craze every once in a while. The latest retro craze? You guessed it: fake cooking. The WSJ reports on the booming popularity of prepackaged ready-to-cook meals, that make harried consumers feel as if they are "cooking," even though the primary culinary skill involved is opening a plastic bag. Hey kids, it's P.F. Chang's-brand frozen skillet meal night tonight— homemade!

"The most popular day of the week to use these brands is Wednesday" because you pour the complete meal into a pan and heat, says Jen Wulf, consumer insights manager for the brands at ConAgra. Still, because consumers warm them in a skillet, "they feel a little bit more engaged" than heating a frozen meal in the microwave, she says.

Says one food executive, "When consumers 'actually turn on and preheat the oven, there is something that reminds them of their grandma or mom.'"

Hey mom jus turning on the oven and talkin to my Facebook friends and playing video game sports and having sex with a robot, lol. U?

[WSJ. Photo: Flickr]