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Let the children cook

30 March 2006
Let the children cook

My culinary highlight of last week was cheese and bacon scones. This doesn't indicate a poor week for eating - the scones were light and full-flavoured - but the fact that they were brought home from school with some pride by my 12-year-old son added a deliciousness that was never going to be seriously rivalled.

It seems that my son has struck lucky, given the frugality that now pervades the teaching of cooking in schools. It's a pitiful state of affairs, made more apparent when you see how much satisfaction a child can garner from an increasingly rare opportunity to do something creative during the school day.

The ability to cook is a pleasure; I can't claim it's a necessity. Few will go hungry from an inability to cook fresh ingredients. I do believe, though, that it can actually enhance the quality of life, and it's a rare opportunity to craft something complete with one's own hands.

Not that this is likely to persuade the Government that food and cooking should be taken more seriously in our schools. We know from the utterances of Charles Clarke that they consider "education for education's sake" as "a bit dodgy". The idea that Britain would be a better place if kids left school with some worthwhile knowledge about food and a basic cooking ability seems unlikely to topple this cynicism.

But there are other more mercenary arguments relating to the long-term cost of unhealthy eating - not to mention the amount of waste, packaging and transportation incorporated into the way most of us eat at present and the crucial importance of independent food producers and retailers to local economies.

On top of all that is what the lack of culinary education means for British food culture. The past few decades have seen an improvement in the standard of eating out in Britain and, at the very top, particularly in London, it's an impressive edifice - but it's one built on sand. Unless we invest in the future, the good times won't last.

** The paperback edition of Simon Wright's book Tough Cookies is published by Profile on 3 April, priced £7.99.*

Should cooking be on the National Curriculum?

Robyn Jones, co-founder and chief executive, Charlton House Catering Services
The Government talks about fighting obesity and encourages people to eat healthily, yet many youngsters can't even cook the most basic food. Cookery in schools is an investment in the future of the child - it's not just one person that's affected, but potentially their children too.

William Baxter, deputy chief executive, BaxterStorey Cooking should definitely go back on the curriculum. Children need to develop knowledge of health and wellbeing and school is the ideal place to do this. I also believe that lunch should be a fundamental part of the school day. Kids now have far too much choice, but they aren't capable of making the right choices as far as their diet's concerned.

Giorgio Locatelli, chef Nowadays the family has lost the mother to the working world - very few still stay at home and teach the children to cook. Many children are ignorant where food and health are concerned. They need educating and then they'll be able to make informed choices. It's important for the future of the nation, and would help avoid draining NHS resources.

Anup Sarin, general manager, Mostyn Hotel Marble Arch, London Although cooking skills can be picked up at home, it is increasingly unlikely that a family will cook every day. As an industry we should be concerned about what this means, because it could be very detrimental. It's much harder to pick these things up when you're older.

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