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From the Editor: February 2010

A Lost Skill

February 24, 2010
By Kristy Nudds


My brother-in-law Tim is a fabulous cook. He finds it relaxing and rewarding to prepare a meal for his family.

My brother-in-law Tim is a fabulous cook. He finds it relaxing and rewarding to prepare a meal for his family.

Cooking comes easily to him; as the youngest child of 10, to get a share of his mom’s attention he spent a lot of time where she spent a lot of time: in the kitchen.

His four-year-old son Colin, likes to imitate his dad and is allowed to be a part of the dinner preparation routine in his house. Without using a sharp knife he can’t do much but he likes to pretend and is helpful when it comes to mixing some ingredients or transferring what Tim has chopped up into a (cold) pan.
When Tim isn’t home, my nephew still expects whoever is cooking dinner to allow him to participate. My sister and mom don’t have a problem with this, but it drives my dad crazy. He worries about safety and thinks Colin is in the way, and would just really rather do it all himself.

Although his culinary abilities are quite limited at this point in time, I think Colin is learning a great skill: how to cook. The interest in food preparation is certainly there, and it’s something that should definitely be encouraged, because it’s something that many people, particularly youth, don’t have a clue about.

Obesity has become an epidemic in North America and the United Kingdom, and the lack of cooking skills and rarity of meals prepared at home have been cited as significant contributors.

I don’t often agree with Jamie Oliver, the outspoken British chef, but I think he made a good point last year when he challenged the British government to invest more than $6 billion dollars in food education over 10 years.

The reason for his challenge was that, for the first time in history, Britain’s obesity rates transcended class. In a Guardian article he called lack of cooking skills “the new poverty.”

At the time, Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (defra), Department of Health, and the Food Standards Agency was getting ready to launch its “Food 2030” plan – a plan to improve the country’s food system – and to meet the challenges of rising population, diminishing natural resources and climate change.

These agencies also realized that the plan needed to include solutions for the “diet-related ill health burdens”– primarily, skyrocketing obesity rates.

With the release of the final Food 2030 plan in early January, it seems the British government did pay some attention to Oliver. A key component of the plan is to enable and encourage people to eat a healthy, sustainable diet. Part of this, as noted in the plan, is to educate the public on how to cook.

Food 2030 is Britain’s first food strategy plan in over 50 years. My question is, where is ours? Our population suffers from the same obesity-related ills.
Sustainability, profitability for farmers and the food sector, and climate change, are all issues that Canadians will face in the future.

For years now, agriculture and food industries have been blamed for human health-related issues and environmental degradation. What I would like to see both Canada and the United States do is what Britain has done – get the agencies responsible for food production, the environment and human health together and talk about how to work together to meet challenges, instead of always working as stand-alone entities with narrow agendas.

And, while they’re at it, teach our kids to cook!

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