Let me start off by saying the next person who calls me a chef simply because I went to culinary school is getting stabbed in the eyes. It would be like calling a soldier “General” just because they went to West Point. Chef is a title that must be earned. It cannot be bought or easily attained. I am, simply, an amateur cook with a little more training than the average person.
Which brings me to the point of writing this article: No one seems to know how to cook anymore. And by no one I simply mean most people of the younger generations. It seems the parents of these generations either never bothered or were unable to teach their children any basic means of feeding themselves without hitting up a drive-thru. So I wonder who’s going to teach them? And who’s going to teach their children?
I fear the only place left that could subdue this unfortunate stampede is the public school system. It is here that I’m sure some of my education friends will have different opinions (some will be very outspoken). If you ask anyone what the purpose of public school is, you’ll likely get a veritable rainbow of answers. To prepare for the workforce, to prepare for college, to indoctrinate the youth into consumership might be a colorful few.
Given the Department of Education’s requirement of testing and the more interesting choice of what they’re testing, it could be stated the US government feels only math, reading, writing and MAYBE science and history are the only important things to know. While these thing ARE important, my opinion is that the priority given to these subjects are creating a citizenship of young people high on fact knowledge and low on life skills and enrichment (as in the arts, my other passion).
When it’s obvious most people will not attain high intellectual success, even those who do go to college, I feel it is time to put life skills back into public schools. Not because I feel it is the government’s duty, but because I feel the general public is incapable and/or unwilling to do so.
So let’s put cooking into our curriculum, and not just in high school. Not even in middle school. Let’s start in elementary school. Cooking is not restricted to knives and hot stoves. There are plenty of opportunities for cooking that don’t involve heat and sharp implements. How about building a sandwich, something that doesn’t require either? (who can’t make a sandwich, you may ask? Well…you’d be surprised.)
There is great multiculturalism in the humble sandwich. Hoagies, tortas, tacos, and gyros are just examples of the kinds sandwich-like foods that kids can easily learn to make. Salads (with home-made dressing) are another food easily learned by youngsters. Let’s work their skills up so that when they graduate from high school, they can at least grill, sauté, braise and roast meats, chop and cook vegetables, and have the basic knife skills to accomplish these. Basically, as Anthony Bourdain says, “have the cooking ability equal to a Sicilian grandmother.”
Alas, this is likely my own delusional pipe dream. But if you are reading this, and you have kids, I implore you to teach them to cook. If anything, just the basic family recipes you know. They’ll be better off knowing how.