We Threw Out The Baby

If you went to grade school in the ’60’s, you remember that the boys took shop and the girls took home ec. Girls wore skirts to school, and boys had to have their shirts tucked in. Everybody learned ballroom dance and girls always wore white gloves when they dressed up. Shop meant that the boys learned how to change the oil in a car, basic carpentry like use of a band saw and a table saw, simple construction (bird houses), and how to wire a lamp.

The girls made a sewing sampler, and a couple of simple garments both by hand and machine; they learned how to set a table, arrange a luncheon, and make meals from simple, like chicken soup, to complex—souffle. Girls also learned how to write a household budget and balance a check book. (Does anyone do that anymore?)


Unfortunately, when women developed consciousness in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, all the “girl” stuff got thrown away. It wasn’t valued. The boy things we kept– now everyone took shop, and no one took home ec. Baby, meet bath water.

Many women from the “Home Ec” generations remember the classes fondly—how to make chicken broth, how to use a percolator… how to make salad dressing; everyone did in those days. Now it’s one of the basic things we like to teach at the Community Cooking School.

When you teach children to cook at school, you remove the emotional content (this means fighting with your mother about how you don’t want to learn how to cook, assuming your mother even knows how to cook anymore) and it becomes a normal thing that people do. Especially now, when so many families don’t cook from scratch, cooking at home, especially for tweens and teens, becomes fraught with political correctness, or parental weirdness. Teach the kids to cook at school—boys and girls—and it moves into the background noise of “Things We Should Know.”

At the Community Cooking School, we’re putting the normal back in cooking at home, from scratch, using easily available grocery store staples and fresh vegetables and herbs.

Since opening in October 2013, we’ve taught almost a thousand adults how to make everything from pickles to paella, and we’ve taught dozens of teens from organizations like Greencorps, Girls in the Game, and Tech Gyrls  how to make their own soda and “Doritos.”

In September, we’ll start working with younger kids on basic cooking skills. Won’t you help?