While skimming a New York Times article on the poor cooking skills of contestants on The Biggest Loser, I came across a line that was extremely thought-provoking (nutritional epidemiologist Barry Popkin told the Times that “[t]he decline of home cooking worldwide, he said, is an underlying cause of obesity”), as well as some information that left my mouth agape (“Last month the government of Britain, where obesity is spreading rapidly, passed a law requiring all secondary-school students to attend cooking classes”).
Jeez, if I had kids, I think I’d want to move to England. It seems like celebrity chef Jamie Oliver had the right idea, to start by serving healthy lunches at school (Ann Cooper is doing the same thing stateside); now the British government is building on that, with compulsory cooking classes for 11- to 14-year-olds starting in 2011 (cooking classes were already required in primary schools and available by request for secondary-schoolers).
Reaction has been mixed, like this skeptical op-ed by food writer Fiona Beckett. And it’s not hard to understand one reader’s point of view on the UK Times piece, especially when the U.S. news is full of reports of imminent cuts in education spending because of budget shortfalls: “There are children leaving school who are semi-literate/numerate. Foreign languages are a joke and maths and science are ‘too difficult’. Teachers have to take on the role of parent and social worker. Get back to solid education. —R Bingham, Lauzun, France”
But I think I’m with Phil Vickery, the chef who wrote the foreword to the cookbook that accompanies the British school cooking program; he told the UK Times, “Cooking is a skill and often it is not learned at an early enough age. Once you can cook the basics you will have the best survival tool in the box to take you into adult life.”
I myself am coming late to the kitchen, despite being old enough to have taken home ec in junior high (I seem to recall making biscuits and a throw pillow—now that’s education!), but CHOW’s Recipe-Free Cooking series has been a great starting point for me.