When I first came to live in London, the only ‘fast’ food available were fish and chips, pie and mash or jellied eels. Anything else required some cooking. Even when eating a tin of bully beef, you had to put it into a pan to melt the fat in which the beef was surrounded. Everything was cooked from scratch!
However, with convenience becoming priority number one, home cooking has fallen to the wayside, with many people losing out on this essential skill. In days gone by, home cooking skills were handed down through the generations. My mother and aunt learnt the basics from their mother (who by all reports, was not a good cook) and because they loved food so much, then taught themselves how to cook magnificently. I learnt loads from my mother and from the time I was able to cook, used to cook dinner on her birthday each year. I remember standing on a chair to stir saucepans and, believe it or not, loved being allowed to wash up.
As an eight-year-old, my cakes and scones were entered into the local Rand Easter Show Home Industries’ section and won first prize. I still recall sitting with a large tray on my lap with instructions to keep it level as we drove to the show grounds at Milner Park. My mum and aunt used to enter things too and, when I was older, we used to compete against one another in the fruit cake section.
It is therefore saddening to see how many young people are missing out on these experiences. For too long successive governments have removed home cooking as a subject from the curriculum, meaning we now have a non-cooking population who aren’t exposed to the joy of creating meals from scratch for themselves. By proxy, they are missing vital lessons in nutrition, healthy eating and feeding themselves (and their friends and family) properly.
Food technology is available to a few, but the sheer joy of home cooking is removed, as it must have ‘academic content’ involving onerous research into techniques and ingredients. All that is enough to turn all but the most ardent gluttons off cooking. Home cooking and eating are such joyous experiences and if the family order of passing down even minor cooking skills still occurred or schools taught basics, whole generations would know how to boil an egg.
An entire sea change is required in the way that home cooking is viewed – not as an ancillary subject but one that is essential to the health and wellbeing of the entire population now and into the future. Alongside this, the all-important subjects of food waste, packaging recycling and other environmental concerns need to be considered and promoted. The newest generations – Z and beyond – have their collective fingers on the pulse when it comes to sustainability, so the ground is fertile for sowing the seeds now. A love of food and home cooking is so infectious and with that spirit, it ought to be introduced ASAP into the school curriculum. It needs to be light and fun and not tested. If I was tested on every meal that I cooked, I would lose my enthusiasm.
Finding dishes that are generally loved is not hard – even fish and chips can be replicated in a healthy form. Sauces over pasta are easily made as are salads and dressings. Those could form the rudiments of a home cooking curriculum and be built upon slowly over the years.
It seems to me that the government has to very urgently introduce cooking into schools and not rely on private business and charities to take on this huge issue. Would you welcome the re-introduction of home cooking to our schools?
Should you wish to improve your home cooking skills, why not join us on one of our classes or courses? We offer everything from absolute beginners intensive courses through to chocolate masterclasses!