Gluten Free Girl's post on the first meal she ever cooked got me thinking about how I learned to cook and what the first thing I remember making is.
I love to cook now and believe I've gotten pretty good at it over the years, but I was a late bloomer on the cooking front. My sister learned to cook when we were kids, but I either wasn't interested or Mom was too busy to teach us both separately - either way, I emerged from college having almost never cooked a dish in my life. My first couple years of supporting myself were pretty grim. Lots of minute rice and dry chicken.
I say that I'd "almost never" cooked a dish before I graduated because I did have a home ec class in eighth grade. We had a cooking unit, along with a childcare unit in which we diapered dolls, a sewing unit in which we made shirts, and I can't remember what else. Makeup application, I think - I remember being taught how to line our lips with lipliner, and showing a surprising level of skill in that.
How retro does that curriculum sound? This was in the early 80s, when women were starting to make lots of strides in the world and workplace, but in small town Ohio things hadn't changed all that much.
When I think back on the cooking unit, I'm equally mystified. Instead of teaching us the basics, I remember we made about four dishes - one a fancy, schmancy cheese sauce that was really good but highly impractical, which I did make at home a few times (my sister liked it) for pouring over broccoli. Another was some kind of complicated apple thing wrapped in bacon that we broiled in the oven. A third was some kind of fancy cookie. I can't remember what the fourth item was.
Don't these seem to be kind of impractical choices, in retrospect? Why not teach us to chop and dice vegetables, saute, fry an egg, make pasta or rice, make a soup base -- you know, basic things that are fundamental skills to more advanced cooking? It would be easy to give kids a good foundation in a class like that.
Instead the curriculum seemed to focus more on some 1950s fantasy of the happy housewife who just needs a couple of fancy dishes to make for the husband's boss so he'll get promoted. And hey, they taught us to put on our makeup for the same evening. Unfortunately, they couldn't show us how to mix the requisite gibson at the same time. A shame, that - *that* would have been useful.
Does home ec class still exist? Is it still like this? I'm curious.