Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bring Back Home Ec!

Helen Zoe Veit wrote a story in last week’s New York Times asking whether it’s time to resurrect the home economics class of the past. She started her column with “Nobody likes home economics.” I couldn’t disagree. I know my way around a kitchen and consider myself pretty skilled in the domestic arts, but the thought of Home Ec evokes for me my first (and nearly last) attempt at sewing -- I made an ill-fitting brown top -- and a teacher who seemed to be in a bad mood most of the time.

But Veit rightly notes that one of home ec's core premises – that “good, nutritious food is profoundly important,” and that it requires time to learn to cook and practice to get better at it – is an idea that deserves a renaissance. Who could disagree with that? Many of us are concerned that our kids are growing up knowing little about how to prepare nutritious food; few enough adults seem to very familiar with what to do with fresh vegetables and whole grains, right?

Veit's column echoes another voice of food reason, of course – Michael Pollan, whose "food rules" include gems like “don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize” and “avoid food products that contain ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.” Truly words to live by.

It’s worth noting that home ec was once (way back in the early 1900s) a serious subject, says Veit. “When few understood germ theory and almost no one had heard of vitamins, home economics classes offered vital information about washing hands regularly, eating fruits and vegetables and not feeding coffee to babies.” Eventually that sound advice just seemed like obvious common sense, she continues. But we know that public health and patient safety experts regularly clamor these days for all of us to wash our hands often and well to prevent the spread of disease: No other single action is as important. So maybe it’s time for a return to common sense – of learning how to cook good, wholesome food, washing your hands to prevent the spread of germs, and other not-so-sexy but life-changing ways to live. -- Lorie A. Parch

What do you think: Should home economics classes be brought back? If so, what skills do you think they should emphasize?

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