It has become more and more obvious to me that learning to cook at school is as important to living a decent life as are learning to read, write and do arithmetic!
So many ills of society would be hugely diminished if the bulk of the population knew how to cook. Once upon a time fifty years ago cooking used to be handed down through the generations but this no longer happens. Cooking used to be taught in schools – albeit mainly to girls and for a short while to boys – but this no longer happens apart from being taught under the guise of food technology – not the most inspiring of titles.
Fifty five years ago when I came to live in the UK, everyone had to cook basic food even if it meant heating bully beef from a tin in a frying pan. Admittedly the food we had back then was not good with margarine being the go-to fat and veg being overcooked and stodgy. I remember only too well the smell of overcooked cabbage and cauliflower that greeted us as we arrived at work – at school – in the 1960s. Much of the food on everyone’s plates ended up in the waste bins where the food known as ‘slop’ was collected and fed to pigs.
However, despite diets lacking in fresh fruit and veg, the obesity crisis from which we now suffer did not exist then. No one could afford to have eaten takeaway meals on a regular basis. The only takeaways that were available were fish and chips, pie and chips or jellied eels, with little other variety. No one could have foreseen the mass explosion in takeaways or delivery food with the likes of Deliveroo and Uber Eats
If every child were given the opportunity to learn to cook at school, the nation would save vast amounts of money: obesity could be controlled as kids would be taught to understand what they need to eat to remain fit and well; waste in food could be cut down too with understanding of how precious food is and the enormous of energy that it takes to produce the food that we take so for granted. Cooking food at home would mean that the need to eat takeaways on a regular basis could be reduced. Perhaps and the following maybe somewhat idealised wish fulfillment, but with families knowing how to cook on a daily basis, one would hope that families would eat together more rather than eating takeaways around the television.
There is no doubt in my mind that teaching cooking as a compulsory subject at school from age 5 to 15 could transform the nation’s eating patterns and understanding of associated ills within a mere ten years. The benefits would be felt long before then as children shared what they learnt at school with their families at home. It seems to me that this is something urgent for any government to make part of the national curriculum.