Like many, I’m currently engrossed in Anthony Bourdain’s latest book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook and he might have an idea that I believe current school districts might want to pay attention to.
Growing up, I have to confess, I didn’t do much cooking, if any. My first recipe I remember making on my own was a homemade lasagna made from a recipe off of the side of the pasta box. My parents gave praise but looking back and remembering my concoction of spices that I “added to the recipe,” I think my parents were being WAY too kind (much like when my friends and I regaled the parents with Barbie Cabaret Shows that I think I charged admission to and they sat through patiently). I remember some other kitchen experiments that were attempted over the years and I’m positive now that perhaps my idiot fiancée was correct in his assumption that my cooking skills were *ahem* a bit challenged (well in his words I was the worst cook to ever come near a stove but then again, he wasn’t so great either!) Over the years, it was easier to call take out than rather try to put together something more challenging than a box of mac & cheese and I admit that it wasn’t until I really started to develop an interest in cooking that I learned that I do, indeed, have a skill set for cooking and even sometimes baking. Does that mean I’m going to open a restaurant or something along that lines – not in the least. I leave that for the more seasoned and trained professionals.
One thing I DON’T remember from growing up is taking a cooking class. While I’m sure my high school had Home Economics at some point or another, perhaps it was one of those electives where I chose to take Spanish (or per the directive of my father – Latin) and I just didn’t see the need for learning how to cook, properly vacuum or sew. At the time of graduation, I wasn’t thinking of anything outside of possibly being an entertainment lawyer (trust me, I got smarter as I got older and learned – hell to the no!) and lawyers don’t cook – they don’t have time. I also remember thinking high school didn’t prepare us for much of anything – sure we could read and write and possibly add 2 + 2 and get 4 but I didn’t realize that Algebra would be vital for balancing a checkbook or Chemistry would be much like cooking. Long story short, I probably could burn water if I tried.
Anthony Bourdain talks about the need for children to learn to cook and how cooking received a bad rap. Many of the boys wouldn’t dare take home ec due to ridicule and the stigma, while girls were expected to thrive in their “housewife training” class so, therefore, many girls decided to protest. If the boys didn’t have to take it, why shouldn’t the girls and the school districts caved, many not requiring their students to take home economics. He proposes a mandatory cooking skill set for children to learn that way they can fend for themselves when they get older rather than relying on restaurant dining and takeout.
The proposed culinary skills that children should learn include:
- Proper knife skills
- How to roast a chicken
- How to make a vinaigrette
- How to shop for and select produce
- How to make soups and stocks (therefore adding frugal skills to the table)
- How to filet and cook a fish
- How to cook vegetables properly
Of course there is way more than that but I think he might be onto something. These are all skills I’m learning NOW and I’m well into my 30s. Somewhere, Julia Child is listening and nodding in agreement, I think.
What skills and techniques do you think today’s children should learn that you did not know growing up?