Today is Food Revolution Day. This is an initiative by Jamie Oliver to get Governments to commit to including food education in schools.
As a child I was taught how to prepare food and cook meals, initially with my mother’s help and later on my own. She showed me how to prepare the ingredients – peeling vegetables, weighing ingredients for baking, preparing fish and meat for cooking; she showed me how to read a recipe – how to weight out the correct amount, how to follow the steps in sequence; she showed me the techniques needed to cook – how to cream butter and sugar when baking, how to use a knife safely, how to use an oven and hob. All valuable life skills and I’m still using them, with a few modifications, many years later.
At school we had timetabled cookery lessons. We learnt the food basics – what proteins, fats and carbs were (carbs were called roughage back then!), recipes and menu planning, even how to lay a table properly; we learnt how to follow a recipe to create a variety of savoury and sweet dishes, some of which became family favourites. I even took a cookery badge at Brownies which meant I had to prepare and cook some ingredients under supervision – I remember peeling and boiling potatoes and cooking a Full English!
When I left home for college I lived in a catered Hall of Residence so opportunities for cooking were a bit limited but I still managed to commandeer some friends kitchens to do the odd bit of baking. Once I married and had a family there were three meals a day to cater and I’ve remained the main caterer for the family after 33 years.
As a former teacher I was surprised at how little cooking happened in Food Technology lessons. The students were very knowledgeable about the chemistry of food, what nutrients were in various foods, how to write and analyse a menu but had little sense of how to cook all the food they were learning about. In fact it was a real red letter day when my Form bought in ingredients for a ‘proper’ cooking lesson. They were all so proud of their creations and I had to be really strict about not trying their offerings – there are only so many scones you can eat in one sitting after all!
So I’ve signed the petition to get cooking lessons back into schools, to teach our children how to grow, prepare and cook their own food. Let’s give them the tools, knowledge and skills to feed themselves healthy, nutritious food. It a really important life skill and it’s fun too!