Not Saussure

September 3, 2006

Cookery Corner

Filed under: Education, Food, Politics, press, Spin, UK — notsaussure @ 10:39 pm

At last some good news, I thought. Sunday Telegraph:


Now cooking lessons are to return under an initiative to be announced by ministers tomorrow. The scheme will give all pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 a cooking “entitlement” from 2008.

Yes, yes, I know the phrase ‘cooking entitlement’ should have been a give-away. But I thought that at last they might have done something sensible. ‘Cooking’, as Alan Milburn goes on to say, ‘ is a vital life skill’. Certainly my view; I was taught to cook by my late father, who’d certainly found it a useful skill before he married — there weren’t many fast food places around in the 1930s — and even more useful when he had to nurse his first wife through a terminal illness (sadly, I found it equally useful when I was in the same position).

On a happier note, and I offer this advice for free to any young men reading, it’s absolutely indispensable when you go to university. College food at Cambridge in my day was pretty vile, restaurants expensive and, more to the point, there were very few women about. I rapidly discovered, though, that, provided you can cook half-way decently, ‘Why not come round and I’ll cook you dinner?’ is virtually infallible — not only would few women turn down a free meal, but it also gives the impression that you’re reasonably house-trained. More to the point, it’s far cheaper than a restaurant, you’ve got her on the premises before you start, and you’re plying her with drink at supermarket prices. Can’t go wrong.

Learning to cook at school is hardly a substitute for learning at home, of course, but at least it gets you started . I suspect because of the ready availability of fast food and microwaves lots of people lost the habit of cooking and failed to pass it on to their children, though I also suspect celebrity chefs have a lot to answer for in the way they turned cooking into a spectator sport, involving cooking very complex meals that you’d never bother to cook in real life, which few people had the confidence to try and those of us who could, wouldn’t bother with. Many’s the happy hour my late wife and I used to spend watching that well-known comedy show ‘Masterchef’, enjoying the way the contestants would take a reasonably sane recipe, at which you might just about want to have a go, and then completely bugger it with some joke ingedient or technique.

Combine that with the way that cooking lessons in schools were replaced by something called ‘food technology’ — apparently

Instead of practical home economics, pupils concentrated on how the food industry works. In food technology GCSE, for example, pupils have been asked to “design, and market” a low-calorie dessert or an airline meal using computer technology

which sounds enough to put you off eating, let along cooking — and you end up with the dire situation of people subsisting on junk food, thus risking all sorts of ills and turning into Americans, and over-priced microwave meals.

Anyway, as I say, at last some good news. Nope. As I read on, my heart sank.

Under the new “entitlement”, pupils will be taught the practical skills to plan and prepare healthy, affordable meals from scratch. If they complete the 24 hours of the course, they will be awarded a “licence to cook” certificate.

A WHAT? And how do the children go about earning these ‘licences to cook’?

Schools will decide whether the classes form part of the food technology curriculum or should be run as clubs after school, at lunchtimes or in holidays.

As yet, however, there is no new money to fund the initiative. A spokesman said last night that the Government was considering what further support schools would need

I see. We’re either going to ask teachers — who may not themselves be able to cook, dab hands though they may be at whipping up low-calory airline deserts on computers and marketing them — either to re-jig the curriculum or teach the subject out of school time (can’t you just see the kids queuing up to learn to cook biscuits during their summer hols?) in school kitchens that probably aren’t there and we’re not going to give the schools any money with which to do this.

So it won’t happen, but it was a nice thought. Oh well…


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