Now I've never been the this governments biggest cheerleader (understatement), but when I saw the announcement that cookery lessons are now being made a compulsory part of the National Curriculum come September, I won't lie to you, I did let out a little whoop-whoop.
Jamie Oliver has long campaigned for children to be taught via the National Curriculum how to prepare nutritious meals and believes that it would be an important step in tackling the rising obesity epidemic we face in our country and do you know what? I agree with him. I believe that developing a healthy attitude toward food, learning about where our food comes from and how to avoid food waste, knowing what constitutes a balanced diet and being able to cook some delicious nutritious meals from scratch are critical life-skills that I feel are undervalued in this country.
Cooking and learning about the food we eat is essential to our lives. One day our children will leave home and have to fend for themselves and far too many children grow up with little or no basic food knowledge or skills - I know, hands up - I was one of them. My parents were not adventurous cooks by any stretch of the imagine. If it didn't have Birds Eye stamped on it, we probably didn't eat it. Our school home economics lessons, whilst I loved and thoroughly enjoyed them, consisted of making shortbread and peppermint creams (from my hazy memory, anyhow) and didn't really stretch to teaching us about anything nutrition. When I left home, I knew absolutely nothing and the extent of my "cooking" for the first few years was reheating ready-prepared food from Tesco. And we know where that gets us *cough* Findus *cough*.
I decided one day to teach myself to cook and I'm so pleased I did. I like that my children see me creating meals from scratch, they ask questions and know what to go and fetch when I ask my 5 year old to find some ginger in the supermarket (you'd be surprised - my mother didn't even know what it looked like when it's not in a jar) and I fully intend to start showing my 7 year old this year how to make some of our basic meals like spaghetti bolognese, fish pie and toad-in-the-hole - hopefully this will give her some basic knowledge and skills, and help develop confidence in the kitchen. I want my children to develop a love of food and cooking and be interested to learn where it comes from - one of the reasons I'm very excited about travelling to Italy this summer and taking them on a food tour. We keep chickens and grow fruit and vegetables at home, with the children playing a big part in the planting, tending and picking processes. The joy they get from planting their own seeds and then eating the produce is amazing to see.
Having said all this, I do think we're very fortunate with our school - it has a nice kitchen for the children to cook in and my own children have been creating various things and learning about nutrition since the Foundation Stage. We also have an active extra-curricular cookery club for Key Stage 2 pupils. However, I realise not all schools and children will have these facilities or opportunities open to them and I'm really hoping that by putting cookery into the curriculum as a compulsory subject, a whole generation of children are going to have their eyes opened to the wonderful world of food.
My only reluctance to get too excited is that I've been let down by this government on more than one occasion with regards to education (we'll not talk about academies) and I really hope that they, and our schools, do this justice and really embrace the opportunity that is on offer here. Let's get our children cooking and learning about food - lets give them essential skills for life and more importantly, lets do it in a way that is enjoyable for them.