If I was Prime Minister I’d make sure every family had access to a free, local cookery course
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You’d think that with so many celebrity chefs, TV cookery shows and kitchen creations on social media, we’d be bringing up youngsters equipped with at least the basic culinary skills.
Sadly, this is not the case.
Four years ago, the Daily Mirror reported that Britain is raising a “can’t cook, won’t cook” generation – with half of young adults unable to rustle up a simple dish.
And it’s still as bleak. More recent research by the Co-op found a third of 18 to 35-year-olds have no idea how to cook spaghetti bolognese, and three quarters didn’t know how to boil veg, fry an egg or grill meat.
This week, a friend invited me to accompany her to a cookery class she had won in a charity raffle.
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It was called Kitchen Confidence and was held at the very posh Sauce at the Langham Hotel in London.
Our chef for the day was Millie Simpson, who once worked with Michel Roux Jr.
Millie says: “These classes are great for introducing people to cooking and showing them how easy it can be.”
She started by showing us the importance of knife skills – how to chop vegetables such as carrots, leeks, onions and celery, and to make them the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
Although I’m an OK cook, I was thrilled to learn how to make celery ribbons.
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I also learned how to make a basic stock and a basic béarnaise sauce, and how to fillet a fish.
Millie clearly demonstrated her passion for cooking and imparted tricks and skills which have given me so much more confidence in the kitchen.
Which is why, if I were Prime Minister, I’d make sure that every family in Britain had access to a free local cookery course.
Being able to cook your own food, with fresh ingredients, and then sit down and eat it is one of the greatest joys a family can experience.
It’s a life skill which I believe should be compulsory in schools – it helps with self-esteem and making healthy choices.
But more importantly, it instils in people on a budget that the only option isn’t to buy cheap junk food.
I propose that the Government introduces “cooking in the community” courses, and to use the older generation to pass on their skills – people like my 75-year-old mum who can cook a curry with her eyes closed.
It would help pass on cooking skills from one generation to another, bring people from different backgrounds together, break down barriers, and would promote more inclusivity and integration in some of our divided towns.
If my mum held a class on how to make a samosa from scratch in the local community centre, it would be packed.
Cooking in this country needs to be taken away from books and screens, and be brought right into the heart of the community through demos by those who have cooked all their life.
It needs to be relatable, fun and accessible. It would bring the joy of cooking back into our homes.
I’d be more than happy to put on my apron and share the skills I have acquired.