Poor People Can't Cook

...or so says Baroness Jenkin, a Conservative member of the House of Lords responding to a report on food banks today.

She obviously expressed it very badly indeed, but I do sort of agree with her - except the problem isn't just restricted to "the poor," it's all of us.

As with a lot of things, I was fairly lucky. Growing up, my Mum was either at home full-time or worked in a school, so she was home in the evenings to cook dinner. My Dad's a good cook too. As children my sisters and I would bake cakes and biscuits with my grandmother or with Mum and gradually learned to fend for ourselves.

I am not a great cook - but as a single man I have built on those basic skills I learned at home and I get by. I still eat way too many ready-meals and takeaways, but I can bake, I can make my own bread, I can do a decent spag bol and follow a recipe.

Not everyone's so lucky though - more and more parents can't be at home to cook and teach their children to cook because they're out at work, or because they never learned to cook from their own parents. And cooking is important, not just because cooking your own meals is cheaper, but because it's part of family and community life.

It's also healthier. We all know that convenience foods, pizzas, curries and all that stuff is bad for us - full of fat and added sugar and not nearly enough fresh fruit and veg.

So what can we do?

I think it needs to start in schools. There are a number of important life skills that schools just aren't equipped to teach students at the moment, but one of the most important is about food and nutrition. Once upon a time, schools used to have Home Economics classrooms set up with ovens and stoves to teach cooking skills - mostly to girls in those days - but not often any more. It will take a significant investment to bring back Cookery into the school curriculum, but it would be worth it.

After all, what's the use of turning out the bright, ambitious workers of tomorrow if they can't feed themselves?

Let me know what you think.

ABC Radio in Australia recently broadcast THIS short segment entitled "Does Cooking Matter?" - Have a listen.

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