As members of an advanced society we stress over many things – to most the skills necessary to survive, thrive, and contribute to society rank above all else – some might even say that learning how to make a difference is at the top of the list. We invest heavily in formal education and acknowledge the value of informal education (our experiences), but how accurate are we at placing levels of importance on those skills that seem dispensable?
Dispensable skills are those that can be replaced through delegation or by simply viewing what they represent in the same fashion as any commodity. Do we need to learn how to repair things when we can simply replace them? Do we need to learn how to build anything when we can simply hire a contractor? Do we need to read and research when we can simply Google a question and wait a second or two for the answer? Do we really need to learn how to cook when we can visit a restaurant, order our food by mail, or make a call to Uber Eats? So many skills have become obsolete in a matter of a decade or so – we have become numb to the thought of protecting what may very well be even more important today than it was in the past.
Think about the list of skills that are no longer on anyone’s radar:
- We don’t teach young people how to tell time when watches have digital displays
- We don’t teach people how to make change when the register tells them how much to return to the guest
- We don’t teach addition, subtraction, multiplication and division tables when we have calculators
- We no longer teach cursive penmanship since everything is typed on a word processor
- A large percentage of contemporary musicians do not know how to read or write music tablature
- Tying shoes is replaced by Velcro
- Writing checks and balancing your account is passé as long as we carry a debit card
- And even though our kitchens are filled with nifty gadgets, a significant portion of the U.S. population wouldn’t even attempt to buy fresh ingredients and prepare a dish from their family history
Now some may say that this is progress and we must learn to give up the old for the benefits of what is new. But sometimes a lack of understanding how to perform tasks that were so commonplace just a few decades ago can have far reaching implications.
So, why do I state that cooking might be one of the most important life skills in a person’s repertoire? Let’s just think about the benefits of taking raw materials and creating a dish for the senses:
- One of the most important unifying moments in the day of a family is that time when everyone can sit down and enjoy a meal that was prepared by someone who truly cares about their wellbeing and life moments. When those meals regularly come from a delivery box, a microwave oven re-heat, or even the tray from a restaurant server-then what is lost?
- Those moments of celebration whether they be holidays, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries, or reunions have always been accentuated by the joy of cooking together, sharing stories, laughing, clinking glasses, and sitting down together to break bread. How can this be replaced?
- True understanding of the farmers craft, the food memory triggered by your sense of smell that signals when a melon is ripe, the snap of a bean that signifies maturity, or the sweet and warm aroma of a vine ripened tomato being sliced in July for that Salad Caprese; the feel of bread dough being kneaded, the comfort of a balanced knife in the cook’s hand, the smell of caramelizing onions, carrots and celery for a mirepoix; the deep aroma of a roast in the oven or a sauce reducing on the stovetop are some of the most memorable experiences of your life. What happens when those experiences are no longer part of a person’s life cycle? What is lost?
- When people disagree, feel deep seated anger, lack understanding of each others opinion, shy away from each other’s differences rather than celebrate them, or seem to reach an impasse when it comes to negotiations – it has always been a wonderful plate of food prepared by those who care and the subsequent opportunity to share in a meal that seems to bridge the gap. What happens when this is no longer an option?
- No matter what we gain in life in terms of success, no matter how rich or poor, regardless of the accolades that come our way – it is our health that really counts. Food and proper cooking is the key to health.
Cooking, when a person is comfortable with the skills necessary for success, can be one of the most enjoyable tasks. Those who have not been afforded this opportunity will always suffer from the loss of connection to the tangible and intangible benefits of the process. From my way of thinking: “Can you cook” should be a required question on any job application, a precursor to making a business deal with some one, part of the contract for marriage, and certainly a requirement for parenthood.
“Every kid in every school no matter their background, deserves to learn the basics about food – where it comes from, how to cook it, and how it affects their bodies. These life skills are as important as reading and writing, but they’ve been lost over the past few generations. We need to bring them back and bring up our kids to be streetwise about food.”
To those of us who cook for a living – what a wonderful gift we have been given. Each day we have an opportunity to make a difference in our own lives and those of others around us. Cooking is a true-life skill.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
Restaurant Consulting and Training