Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bring Back Food Education Where It Belongs -- In Our Schools! - August 21st, 2013
Back in the dark ages (my junior high school years in Baltimore), food education was mandatory for every girl. While the boys were hustled off to shop class and the sublime opportunity to saw off a finger or hammer a nail firmly in their thighs, the girls were ushered into a fully decked-out modern kitchen to cook adult things that gave off heavenly aromas. It sure beat my Easy-Bake Oven! We even had our own aprons -- homemade from sewing class (when I accidently sewed my apron strings together my mother secreted it off to the tailor for repair).

While sewing wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and surely wasn't mine, cooking instruction seemed universally beloved. Sure it was an era of rampant sexism, with society assuming women would handle all household chores while the men pounded away in their garage workshops until they were called for dinner. But I remember that the boys were jealous. Who wouldn't be jealous, learning that half of your classmates had just prepared and eaten chicken potpie while you were sanding a birdfeeder? The boys would have to walk by the home economics kitchen after finishing shop class and the aromas drove them crazy -- apple cobbler, chicken soup, biscuits, beef stew, pancakes and more. Thanks to those blatantly sexist cooking classes, I've always enjoyed cooking -- and pitied the poor boys for missing out. And what I learned from school cooking instruction has served me well for decades as a grocery shopper, a cook and an adventurous eater.
So I couldn't help but cheer when I heard that Jamie Oliver's Food Foundation and the organizers behind Food Day (Oct. 24) are collaborating on a new national initiative to put food education in every school, for every child. Why critical life skills like food education and cooking were ever eliminated from many districts is beyond my comprehension. But it's easy to see the damage wrought, beginning with the fact that a third of our kids are either obese or overweight.

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