As a secondary school student myself and a lover of the subject, I believe cooking should be taught to everyone. People whole-heartedly agree but critics fail to see the feasibility of introducing compulsory cooking lessons for all. With the average time spent cooking dinner decreased from 90 minutes in the 1960s to just 32 minutes today, could we not learn a valuable lesson in how to cook good food?
Being brought up in a food environment with my parents’ Chinese takeaway, I always found food technology interesting. But for others they view it as a boring subject especially when you are learning about the Eatwell Plate and where the oven is. If we sparked an interest in food from when they come into secondary school, perhaps we wouldn’t have this problem. But of course, food technology really isn’t the same as cooking; food technology combines the designing of food packaging, manufacturing and industrial processes with cooking.
One of the biggest limitations is that there aren’t enough trained teachers. A poor quality teacher puts students off the subject. It’s their passion and ability to make cooking fun that stuck with me from my time doing GCSE food technology. If cooking was made compulsory, I’m sure we would see an instant surge in people looking for teacher training as the demand for cooking teachers increases. Seeing as only cooking would be taught and none of the manufacture, would it be plausible that cooking teachers simply need the ability to cook and work well with children? Maybe but it’s too hard to tell without having seen any of this firsthand.
And then there’s the cost of introducing resources to schools nationwide. It’s expensive and few schools have the passion and energy to commit a lot of money to renovate and maintaining a brand new kitchen since for too many in the British school system, cooking is not important despite it being part of everyday life. Coming from a secondary school point of view, I don’t think schools teach us enough about the real life and going into university, I have no clue how to control finance, think about jobs or look for a house. Going out into the wider world blind with nothing but the faint memories of the Bayeux Tapestry in Year 7 is scary and by introducing cooking into the timetable, surely it would make that experience less frightening?
There’s also the pressure of bringing ingredients into school every lesson. So who pays for the ingredients, the parents or schools? I think the school should invest more money into the cookery system; buying from wholesalers would make funding cooking lessons cheaper and then there is no chance of students forgetting their ingredients, ruining their chance of cooking that recipe. For children whose parents aren’t able to buy ingredients for them, this means they don’t miss out. Alternatively parents could pay, at the start of the school year, money that will cover the cost of their cooking, something that will be determined by the teachers at the start of the year who should meticulously plan out their lessons so they know what they will cook and when. Obviously the school could subsidise for those parents who cannot afford this.
No matter how much I wish for this to happen, unfortunately there is the restriction of the timetable. Timetables are strictly organised and to bolt on a few cooking lessons would make everything a mess. Perhaps those who are truly passionate about cooking could have an after school club or even a marathon weekend cooking session where they are taught much more advanced recipes, I for one would definitely attend. Making children feel they are good at something makes them much more focused and gives them direction. Of course there are further limits since lessons are around an hour long on average. Double lessons should be allocated to such subjects; by the time all the students are focused and ready to learn, there are 50 minutes left and that’s not enough time to teach a recipe. Double lessons would open up a whole world of possibilities. Class size may affect just what can be done. A large class would not be able to cook all at once if the school has a small kitchen, so splitting up the group whilst the other half does something else is not good. This emphasises the demand for teachers. The problem would be reduced if schools had large kitchen facilities but many schools do not even have a cookery room, let alone enough space to facilitate a cookery room.
Too many people do not know how to cook basic meals, let alone “pierce film lid and microwave for 6 minutes” or “preheat the oven to 200°C”. It’s clear we are a processed food, ready meal generation and compulsory cooking lessons can change this. Do we really need to know that starch cells start absorbing water at 60°C, are swollen to 5 times their size and burst at 80°C, gelatinisation is complete at 100°C and could form a gel on cooling? I don’t think so. Just because you know the process of gelatinisation, doesn’t mean you’ll remember how to make a white sauce for your coursework.
Food technology is different to cooking. How about we start teaching children a new recipe every week with ingredients provided by the school, nothing fancy, the value range is all that is needed. Students are in pairs, each around their station with the necessary equipment already out on the table. Demonstrate the recipe alongside the students so they can see what you are doing perfectly. Once it’s cooked, let them eat it and by getting hands on under the control of the teacher guiding them through each step, with assistants helping if necessary, perhaps something will go in. Make something that is well liked by everyone e.g. cakes, pizzas or muffins that are also healthy and achievable at home. It should be up to the teacher to decide what they cook, this freedom will allow the passion of the teacher to shine through which could help get children excited about cooking.
I want to see cookery compulsory for all secondary school students up to the age of 18. We’ve made a start here in Britain and the Food Revolution Day is on Friday 15th May. I want to get into the food technology lessons at school that day (after my exam of course) and get the students passionate about food. Share to show your support for food education for all!