The first reaction to this column may be: “Kluger. You’re sexist!” And my response would be “go bake a cake.”
I was at my local supermarket this morning, picking up ingredients for a Key Lime pie I was planning to make for a friend's BBQ this weekend.
Cooking is one of my passions. I learned how to cook in college at my off-campus house where I discovered a guy who cooks who was sure to score points with whomever he was dating. This was 1974, long before Bobby Flay, Mario Batali, Guy Fieri or Emeril “Bam!” Lagasse.
Most guys don’t know how to boil water or fry an egg, let alone sear tuna and drizzle with a raspberry wasabi glaze. Part of that is laziness, but a big part of that is the old myth that men work, women cook. The world has changed, but some men have not.
Back to my sexism. I was in the cooking aisle and didn’t know if I could use a certain kitchen item to add icing to my pie and I stopped two teenage girls and asked if they knew anything about cooking or baking. They laughed and said: “No!” An older woman overheard me and explained how I could use the item I was looking for. She lamented they don’t have Home Economics in schools anymore and said before she retired as a ER doctor in Milwaukee, she found time to cook and taught her kids how to as well. I lamented that Shop was also removed from the school curriculum.
We got into a conversation and she said her sons and daughter were taught how to work their way around a kitchen out of survival and caring for themselves, instead of expecting someone else to do it for them. Yes, she was a successful doctor and said kids learn what they live.
If they look at their grocery cart and it’s frozen meals and chips, it’s clear the apple is still on the tree and hasn’t yet fallen.
I was worried about today’s generation of junior and senior high school students until I read about Monarch High School in Louisville, Colorado. According to Julie Olsen-Smith, who teaches family and Consumer Sciences, she runs nutrition and wellness class as a way to help students learn about nutrition and cooking. She says during the first part of the week, students in her class study the basics of nutrition and related topics, such as the farm-to-table movement, in the classroom. The latter half of the week is spent in the kitchen preparing healthy dishes like fish tacos or salads with quinoa.
As far as Shop classes, not every kid is destined to be an IT expert nor are they destined to work in a machine shop but they are skills that have not gone the way of the dinosaur. While machines have taken over much of industry, we still need machine operators and artisans, engravers, tile designers, people who work with their hands and their hearts.
The education is out there and all it takes is for young people to step up to the counter and take a chance on learning to cook, create, and fend for themselves.
Give a man or woman a frozen fish dinner and he/she eats-and gains weight for a day. Give that person a piece of fresh fish and they eat for a lifetime.