Stanford will now teach your kid how to shop for groceries

Stanford Teaching Kitchen
© Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises

A new Teaching Kitchen was launched last month, in hopes of providing students with one of the most practical skills of all -- how to feed oneself.

Success in life is not limited to academic performance; it also involves knowing how to feed oneself, as Stanford University has recently admitted. In response to the shocking lack of culinary knowledge exhibited by students, Stanford decided to launch a new teaching kitchen, in conjunction with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s non-profit Food Foundation.

The classes, which are available to all students, are designed to teach the basics of grocery shopping, cooking, and how to make healthy food choices. NPR’s The Salt blog quotes Eric Montell, who runs the dining program at Stanford:

“I’ve had a student say to me, ‘I don’t even know how to fry an egg.’ You know, they have such a rich academic program here at Stanford. But students sometimes forget the practical part of, ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to graduate and I’m going to have to cook for myself.’”

Students who live in dorms are usually eat in school cafeterias and have limited access to fully stocked kitchens. They lack opportunities to practice making homemade food on a regular basis, which makes the new teaching kitchen a great way to hone one’s skills and boost culinary confidence.

David Iott, one of the instructors at the Teaching Kitchen, says he gets a lot of questions from students about how to do basic things: “They’ll ask me, ‘How do you roast correctly?’ or ‘Which knife do I use for which task?’ What we’re trying to do with the Test Kitchen is demystify the kitchen a little bit.”

While I am in support of any program that tries to bring back the lost arts of Home Economics – especially cooking from scratch, which I consider crucial for the future of our food system and human health – I cannot help but think it’s a shame these students have been allowed to reach university without learning how to fry an egg. Where have the necessary teaching kitchens been all along, throughout elementary and secondary schools? Why haven’t parents, the most important teachers of all, passed on these skills to their kids?

The partnership with Jamie Oliver’s foundation is also a bit confusing. Oliver himself has nothing more to do with the Teaching Kitchen than making an appearance at the inaugural class, although it will use exclusively “Jamie Oliver’s food education curriculum, recipes, and inspiring teaching style” – an odd limitation if the goal of the Teaching Kitchen truly is to develop self-sufficiency in the kitchen. Could this be just another celebrity name-game to attract potential new students?

Regardless of the political minutiae, the fact remains that the more people who start cooking, the better, so any Teaching Kitchen is a good step in the right direction. Hopefully other schools, particularly those for younger students, will follow suit and reinstate Home Ec classes for all ages and genders.

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