Time to get serious about cooking in the classroom
At The Cooking Academy, we welcome cooks of all abilities and levels of experience, but I have to confess it’s the people who come to us having barely boiled an egg or peeled a potato who are the most rewarding to teach. It is scary to think that so many adults in this country, and consequently their children, are unable to put together a tasty, nutritious and balanced meal. A recent survey* found that 39% of adults would like to be better cooks or bakers but with ready meal sales on the rise and the time pressures of modern life putting people off home cooking, it’s hardly shocking that cooking is in decline.
For me, the answer is to go back to basics and get proper cookery lessons back into schools up and down the country. And I don’t mean fairy cakes and packaging design – I mean teaching young people about nutritional cooking, related to wellbeing, biology, cookery and the basic principle of a balanced meal. These are all key techniques they can use over a lifetime and underline the importance of not relying on takeaways and fast food.
You might find it surprising to learn that the current National Curriculum does make room for the teaching of cookery and nutrition. In fact by key stage three, all students are expected to be able to “cook a repertoire of predominantly savoury dishes so that they are able to feed themselves and others a healthy and varied diet”. This is all well and good but I certainly don’t know many 16 year olds who would feel confident enough in the kitchen to cook a tasty, healthy meal from scratch. Perhaps I am underestimating our nation’s youth and indeed our adult population, but there is an undeniable disconnect between the good intentions of our National Curriculum and the reality of what goes on in family kitchens every evening. We may all enjoy living vicariously through the contestants of Bake Off and MasterChef, but it would seem our enthusiasm doesn’t extend to our own culinary exploits.
I think the National Curriculum needs to reflect the skills that we actually need to survive in society not just those to get us through to university and become engineers and lawyers, as important as those skills are too. How can we justify spending five years learning subjects that most of us will never use in everyday life or professionally, yet we don’t teach the thing we do at least three times a day, eat, hopefully sensibly.?
The UK has one of the highest levels of obesity in Western Europe, only outweighed (if you’ll excuse the pun) by Iceland and Malta. 67% of men and 57% women are overweight or obese and more than a quarter of our children – these are worrying statistics. Obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes already cost the NHS £9 billion a year and that figure will continue to soar unless we become a nation of home cooks again.
This Thursday, we will vote in a new government and although the outcome of the election remains uncertain, I would call on all politicians elected to make a commitment to prioritising the teaching of cookery and nutrition in schools. If in one afternoon we can teach students at The Cooking Academy the fundamentals of good nutrition and how to devise a balanced meal, there is no excuse for our schools to not be able to do the same. And if you are among the ranks of those who would like to improve their own skills in the kitchen, take a look at the courses we offer here. Your school might have taken cookery lessons off the menu – but it’s never too late to learn!
*Survey conducted by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), 2015
Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.