Tuesday, June 16, 2009

In the long run, folks are gonna suffer

I am sad for my daughter and her friends.
I'm sad for all the kids going to schools in districts where they've eliminated Home Economics because of budget constraints.

Getting back to natural is a big new craze in the food industry. A lot of people have books out now about how bad things are, how the hormones injected into cattle are making kids hit puberty at younger ages, how folks are consuming 300 to 500 more calories per day than they were in the 1950's because of the way foods are processed, how convenience foods are the death of us all.

I'm not disputing any of these things. I haven't read the books, I don't have the facts. I just hear things.

What troubles me is there seems to be no education for today's youth in the home sciences. I've complained before that at my daughter's school, she got one quarter, every-other day of health education. She received no real substantial nutritional information, nothing that'll stick with her. The nutrition lesson may have been: here's a food pyramid. I am constantly reminding her she needs protein and vegetables to go with those [fill in a starchy food/snacks here].

I don't know how long it's been since they've quit teaching home-ec in school, but I suspect those girls are now raising kids of their own. Or trying to. Do they know how to cook? Did their moms teach them? Are their kids overweight because they eat a lot of fast food? Would the obesity rates in kids coincide with the removal of home-ec in our schools? I'm sure there is going to be a long-term connection.

What's going to happen when there are several generations of people who grow up without a home-ec education? Will they even put kitchens in houses in the future? OK, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. I'm giving the school systems some of the blame for not providing the basic knowledge of good nutrition, cooking and self-sufficient survival to our youth.

Even if the food industry is revitalized, I still fear for the future, fresh, hormone-free food will be abundant, but no one will be able to prepare it.


The incident that spurred this rant was an attempted pineapple upside-down cake. Fern and her friend wanted to make a cake over the weekend. They found a recipe in one of those church collection cookbooks, recipes from little old church ladies who assume you know what they mean so the directions are a bit abbreviated.

They went something like this:
Melt the butter and the brown sugar in the skillet. Arrange the pineapple rings in the skillet. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks and slowly add the sugar, then the pineapple juice. Add the flour mixture. Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the batter. Pour batter over pineapple slices and bake.... It made sense to me. However,

I got called into the kitchen when the girls were complaining the batter was too runny and they didn't know what to do. They also thought they had to transfer it all to a cake pan. It was a mess.

I got the sugar/butter stuff back in the skillet and remelted it and added the pineapple slices back in. I remade the batter from scratch since I couldn't use what the girls had done. I called them back when I got to the part about folding the beaten whites into the batter. Fern's friend was amazed at the sight, she'd never seen, or heard of beaten egg whites. How long did that take? Only about a minute. Wow

I demonstrated the art of "folding" and had her try too. I reviewed the recipe and explained the steps. The cake turned out well despite its shaky start. I think the girls just read the ingredient list and dumped them in a bowl. I learned to cook basic family meals from my mother, but I learned skills at school. Does anyone else notice this gaping whole? I'll teach what I can to my own children, if they are willing to learn. (Learning from one's parent versus an outside teacher is a whole other blog topic...)

Here is a similar recipe I found on the web with better instructions.

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 20-ounce can of pineapple slices, drained, reserving 5 tablespoons juice
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a 9-inch cast iron skillet. Add the brown sugar and pecans; stir well to thoroughly combine, then turn off the heat -- don't cook it. Arrange 8 pineapple slices in a single layer over the brown sugar mixture (your 9-inch skillet should accommodate 8 slices without overlapping). Set the skillet aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl; set aside.

Beat the egg yolks at medium speed until they are thick and lemon colored. Gradually add the sugar, continuing to beat. Add the flour mixture to the yolk mixture, and stir in the reserved pineapple juice.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour or spoon the batter evenly over the pineapple slices.

Bake at 350°F for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool the cake in the skillet for 30 minutes; then invert it onto a serving plate. Place a maraschino cherry in the center of each pineapple ring.



just me said...

I hated home ec - and resented that the boys didn't have to take it. (I date myself.) And I learned next to nothing about sewing... I can barely hem. But I see your point.

I learned some cooking skills from my mom, but I was so disinterested as a teen that she sort of gave up. Most of what I know I just learned from following recipes... and more recently, from watching Food Network.

I have an acquaintance who teaches "food sciences" in a nearby county. It sounds like all the girls who the school doesn't know what to do with get dumped in her class. Too bad.

VE said...

Good points, Anne. Consider that the schools invited in fast food companies to make their cafeteria budgets work. I'm sure Home Ec. and nutritian would fly against that action. As Chris Rea says in his song "This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway...oh no, this is the road to hell." Slowly, piece-by-piece I think he was on to something...

Mom said...

I learned to bake Spam in home ec. I learned to make a pineapple-upside- down cake at home. My mother was a good cook. I learned by helping her.

Anne said...

Mom, that's the way it should be, learning to cook beside your mom. I'm afraid that chain will break when the benefits of cooking nutritious meals isn't reinforced in school.

Dant said...

Umm, its not the schools fault. How often do we cook at home?

YoLinna said...

I flunked Home Ec. But I love to cook.. self taught. Took a couple close brushes with botulism though-- who knew you had to take the innards out of chicken?

In other news. Pineapple Upside Down cake is my number 1 favorite! I didn't think anyone else had even heard of it (thought it was just a Southern thing!) Mmm. Yummy.

Anonymous said...

noooo we didn't dump it in a bowl. but us dumb modern kids don't understand how you can put a skillet in the oven! gosh it wasn't that bad. I cook better then Mandy.