Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why Johnny Can't Cook

I miss home economics.

Not that I really know what home economics class was like, since even when I was just a young Princess Whackamole myself, home ec was passe. Technically it was still offered, but only paired with "consumer math," a class that supposedly included looking up information in the phone book as part of the final exam. Not the academic track I travelled. Apparently the track I was on was expected to lead to a career with a high salary so I could hire people who took home ec.

Just by chance, I was lucky enough to have cooking as a summer class during elementary school. We learned how to make scrambled eggs (including holding the bowl at an angle while whisking), orange juice, lemonade, toast, and pancakes. (Teachers, thinking ahead to Mother's Day and Father's Day mornings, know that a good breakfast in bed translates to happy parents voting for teacher raises.) If it weren't for that class, I might be living on ramen today.

The fact is, I still forget how to cook from time to time. I fall into the habit of "fixing" dinner, as though I were "fixing" my hair. I forget to use actual ingredients, and instead end up doing little more than arranging food: pouring pasta from the plastic bag into some boiling water, draining it, throwing on some Trader Joe's Vodka Sauce, and putting a handful of baby spinach on the plate next to it. Not much more than a sophisticated ramen, really. Remembering to cook in the way that requires me to chop up onions, carrots, and even kale, and make a delicious soup takes a special effort. I get stuck in the trap of convenient, nutriousish prefab food. So I blame the school system.

Right-wing, homeschooling types will say "If you leave cooking up to the public school system, we'll have a nation of limp-wristed whiskers! Cooking should be taught in the home. Ideally in Kansas." Well, maybe. I've tried from time to time to get the rest of the family interested in cooking, and it's just not happening. Dinner prep time overlaps with homework time. And what it really comes down to is: I'm lazy. If I were slightly more strategic in my laziness I would see that training a young cook to make dinner could allow for much future laziness, but a nap on the couch is worth two in the future.

So, now I'm having to face up to either teaching the young Princess Whackamole, or joining the ranks of parents sending their kids to college with a microwave and a pallet of Hot Pockets.

I know children should learn to cook, but isn't this why we pay taxes?

1 comment:

George said...

I'm supposed to pay taxes?

Seriously, I learned to cook on my own, in college, but part of that was my school kicked you out of its limited dorms after freshman year, so you had to figure things out. Don't know why I didn't only do ramen (which I did do).

But there are lots of ways to make cooking lots of fun. First, a great meal cooked by yourself is one of the most satisfying accomplishments. I mean, you create, you consume--all one pleasing circle. Second, you tie it into all the gardening and eating local F&F already has discussed. Then you grow, you cook, you eat--it's like patting yourself on the back through your stomach. Third, you tie it into drinking--good wine deserves good food. Fourth, you tie it into books, as cookbooks are often physically beautiful and I love when the good ones imply personality, sense of place, traces of history.

I want to go cook something right now!