Monday, June 05, 2006

Cooking 101

I wasn’t going to keep this up, but I do want to share with you an article which appeared in The Washington Post in March. Written by Candy Sagon, it was entitled Cooking 101: Add 1 Cup of Simplicity. The author states that “basic cooking terms that have been part of kitchen vocabulary for centuries are now considered incomprehensible to the majority of Americans.” Recipes are phasing out verbs like “sauté”, “dredge”, “braise” and “simmer” for a generation that lacks cooking skills. New York cooking teacher Richard Reuben is quoted as saying, “In my basic ‘How to Cook’ class, I get people who have only used their ovens to store shoes and sweaters. They’re terrified to hold a knife. They don’t know what garlic looks like.”

Examples abound:

At a conference last December, Stephen W. Sanger, chairman and chief executive of General Mills Inc., noted the sad state of culinary affairs and described the kind of e-mails and calls the company gets asking for cooking advice: the person who didn’t have any eggs for baking and asked if a peach would do instead, for example; and the man who railed about the fire that resulted when he thought he was following instructions to grease the bottom of the pan—the outside of the pan.
There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence and the requisite bunch of statistics (in a national survey of 1,5000 adults conducted by Betty Crocker Kitchens, 98 percent knew the abbreviation for teaspoon, but only 44 percent knew how many teaspoons were in a tablespoon.) The message is clear: cooking is a dying art.

Try telling that to the realtors who pepper (no pun intended) their copy in the Real Estate sections with the horrid and inaccurate phrase “gourmet kitchen.” Throw in the granite counters and stainless steel appliances and you have fed the domestic dream of the consumer. “If I had a kitchen like that, surely I could cook!”

I attended the wedding of the daughter of a friend who is a great cook and who has made sure that her daughters know their way around the kitchen. I was so happy to buy the bride a gift that I knew would be put to use. Meanwhile, Williams-Sonoma has grown rich on the sale every gadget and gizmo known to man, the television channels are gummed up with cooks and chefs and magazines dedicated to food and wine and cooking are second in popularity to the ones devoted to crafts and hobbies.

As for me, it has turned chilly and I must go and get my sweater out of the oven.


candyschultz said...

I don't know where these statistics come from but I beg to differ. The proliferation of cooking shows, cookbooks, cooking schools and restaurants indicates otherwise. In the two year period between the beginning of my culinary training and the return, the demand had gotten so high that they had to relax their standards a bit just to fit everyone in.

Kate said...

There are 3 tsp in a Tbl......Finally, a trivia question I know!! Kate