A return to home ec?

I gave a cooking workshop a few weeks ago and asked a roomful of people if they knew how to roast vegetables. About 8 hands went up, out of 30.

What does this mean? Maybe nothing, or maybe everything.

It’s very easy to attack Americans for our propensity to eat in our cars, hit the drive-thrus and scarf processed packaged foods, but the reason may be far less insidious than we might think.

Isn’t is possible that a vast majority of Americans simply don’t know how to cook? I ask this not in a pedantic, holier-than-thou way, but as an honest question that deserves a thoughtful discussion. Yes, of course, our ever-faster culture plays a huge role, and many families are working multiple jobs and don’t have time to cook from scratch. But is time the only culprit? Is money? If we weren’t so harried as a culture, would we know how to get a healthier, more balanced meal on the table?

An article in last Wednesday’s New York Times noted: “Last month the government of Britain, where obesity is spreading rapidly, passed a law requiring all secondary-school students to attend cooking classes.”


Could that ever fly in this country? I love the idea in theory, but if we were to institute mandatory cooking classes in our schools, I wonder what we’d have to give up in exchange.

Let’s see: should Johnny take physics, or learn how to roast a chicken? Play in the band, or grill a fish? Learn a language, or compose a salad? It’s easy to say we should be able to do it all, but anyone who has been paying attention to the state of public education realizes that programs are cut much more often than they’re added.

I don’t see the U.S. following Britain’s lead any time soon, but still: if students learned how to cook while in school, perhaps they’d be less likely, as adults, to eat Ho-Hos and McThings.