Lessons In Self-Reliance


Ruth Graham urges young people to take home ec:

The words “home economics” likely conjure visions of future homemakers quietly whisking white sauce or stitching rickrack onto an apron. But to a handful of people thinking big about these problems, they evoke something different: a forward-thinking new kind of class that would give a generation of young people – not just women, but everyone – the skills to shop intelligently, cook healthily, manage money, and live well. The historian Helen Zoe Veit has argued that home ec has a key role to play in treating the obesity epidemic. “A beautiful way to start solving this problem would be to get more people cooking,” she said recently. “We have a blueprint of how to do this, and it’s through home economics.”

Erin Gloria Ryan is on board:

FCS [family and consumer sciences] is far from unnecessary sexist wife-prepping fluff; it’s important stuff that all students will actually, you know, use in their adult lives – not as a method of taking care of your hat-wearing husband’s babies, but to take care of themselves and separating themselves from the money and resource-wasting convenience products that rely on a helpless population to survive.

It feels good to take care of yourself! It feels good to save money by making your own food, taking care of your own home, understanding your own basic finances. Mandatory FCS with the sort of curriculum already being taught by dedicated teachers across the country could help alleviate the scourge of kidults currently stocking freezers full of Lean Cuisine and closets full of pants in need of hemming and checkbooks that have never been balanced.

Food writer Tom Philpott presses the issue:

I have witnessed firsthand the vexed state of basic cooking skills among the young. When I helped run the kitchen at Maverick Farms for seven years, I noticed that most of our interns couldn’t chop an onion or turn even just-picked produce into a reasonably good dish in a reasonable amount of time. And these were people motivated enough about food to intern at a small farm in rural North Carolina. If I had their cooking skills, I’d be tempted to resort to takeout often, just to save time.

(Photo of a 1906 “domestic science” class by Alexander W. Galbraith)