Front and center of tomorrow's society – learn smarter, teach harder
IKEA is beneath my son. My 3-year-old son, Zyed, loves to help with everything in the kitchen. He seems to natural exude the desire to help people (thank God) but the realm that raises his interest is in the kitchen – cooking and cleaning. He has an IKEA kitchen play set but rather break off the stems of the hot peppers and crack the eggshells. I know it is my family’s responsibility to make sure that Z is knowledgeable with making sure he can feed himself cooking; however, can’t the schools help compliment us, parents? Where the heck is home economics? Today Millennial and Generation Z’ers can create and edit lovely online products but are having a hard time making home-cooked meals. With obesity and other nutritional ailments running rampant, shouldn’t we MANDATE cooking classes? Absolutely yes. States should fill the void by making a cooking class a mandatory element in primary and secondary school. In doing so, hopefully, not only will the youth be more versed in the kitchen, but more intimate with other core curricula, and jobs could be created for older professionals/workers.
The world is becoming more fast food and microwave-centered (convenience foods); consequently, Millennials are the direct product of the mechanization of food. Food is on every corner and freezer. Enough food to fill our arteries with plaque and stomachs with ulcers. As the Spaniards say, “he who has it, misuses it.” In essence, the wide availability and affordability of convenience food have made many people overuse and overvalue it while undervaluing and under-utilizing home-cooked meals. Many older folk, without the need to perform any scientific studies or polls, believe that because there are no home economics classes and parents are not stepping up to teach their kids.
Introduce cooking in schools and watch students gravitate towards the kitchen and away from the drive-thru. Empowering students with knowledge and know-how for cooking foods they like and healthier foods gives them the power not to allow culinary ignorance to nor money to dictate what they eat. With the right information about food options and cooking methods, young people will be able to cook and make smarter choices between homemade and fast food consumption. Instead of repeatedly going towards the “more affordable” 99-cent fast food menu, the culinary-educated youth can create food in bulk that can compete with the aforementioned option in nutrition and cost. For example, if someone knows how to cook oatmeal (yes it seems basic, but hey, Starbucks is making a killing off oatmeal) then maybe s/he will forgo Starbucks’ $3.45 “Classic Oatmeal.”
There is a lot of controversy behind the economics of cooking at home versus eating fast food/pre-made meals (i.e. microwaveable meals). When cooking at home, you have to factor in capital costs (e.g. kitchen utensils, gas/electricity, food ingredients, etc.) and time used to prepare and make meals; however, equipping people knowledge on how to cook will permit them to have the chance to weigh out this opportunity costs scenario. Unfortunately, many choose to eat fast food because of the inability to cook and do not get an opportunity to determine if it is cheaper to cook or dine out. But the entertainment/satisfaction factor of cooking for oneself and others cannot be valued.
Cooking with a significant other can be a pleasurable and memorable moment. I starkly remember the great times cooking with my wife, mother, nieces, and sister-in-law. In fact, many Millennials also agree that cooking with others is a great activity. Parents can increase social bonds and the love of cooking through cooking their children. Whether toddlers or teens, getting them in the kitchen under the tutelage of experienced family members will create fond memories and fine cooking skills.
Culinary arts in the classroom will make “abstract” mathematical concepts more concrete? How simple is it to integrate math ideas like measurement (cups, teaspoons, etc.), ratios (altering the size of recipes), and basic addition and subtraction. For younger learners, understanding math through cooking may increase their affinity to mathematics/arithmetic. Moreover, reading and chemistry can be thrown in the multidisciplinary mix of culinary arts as food recipes serve as an academic link. As Benjamin Franklin shrewdly put, “Tell me and I forget, teach me, and I may remember, involve me, and I learn.” Engaging students in math (and other subjects) through cooking will help solidify their academic skills.
Where will schools get the human capital to teach students how to cook? School administrators and human resource personnel must recognize that these culinary experts are more than likely within the school’s neighborhood community. Faculty, staff, local community members and businesses are a rich source of culinary knowledge. Pitmasters, chefs, and other food artisans are inside and outside of the school: find them. This venture of sourcing local culinary talent for volunteer or paid teaching can indeed help bring a community together and fulfill the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child.
We need cooking as a part of our school curriculum. It has the potential to improving the dietary habits and social health of our youth. Additionally, promoting cooking in schools through school and neighborhood personnel can strengthen community bonds and allow young people to learn from their elders. Lastly, cooking classes will complement other academic courses such as math and science. Let’s demand school boards and other local education agencies to put cooking on the menu of courses for students to take. Let’s get back into the kitchen.