Good Life

Well-Seasoned | Budding chefs hone their skills at basics of cooking camp

It’s a shame it took us until Friday to figure out that Ellie Morar could use a step stool to reach the countertop in the Foods Lab at Henderson Building during “Cook Like a Chef Basics” cooking camp last week.

Ellie spent most of the time on her tiptoes while slicing, dicing, kneading and searing, and she earned the “Most Athletic Chef” award for her effort.

Across the aisle from her were campers who towered over the counselors, making it hard to determine who were the adolescents and who were the college students.

The 12th annual camp wrapped up Friday. After the first week’s basics program, a new group of campers explored world cuisines in the “Ethnic Chef” program.

Hopefully, there are now 50 or so more preteens who feel comfortable in the kitchen, able to choose and prepare their own food. The age range of the program is 11 to 13, or thereabouts, because that age is the most impressionable and physically capable of navigating a kitchen.

Not that all these campers are destined for culinary careers, though some definitely show promise, rather, these young people who will go into medicine, architecture, engineering, advertising, art, the hospitality industry, civil service or information sciences will be able to come home from work and make dinner for themselves and their families one day in the future. They picked up the skills along the way. They are “kitchen literate.”

Kitchen literacy is endangered today.

Recent headlines announced the decision by the State College school board to limit Family and Consumer Science programs at our local middle schools to sixth grade, despite increasing evidence that the current obesity and diabetes epidemic is related to the inability of people to cook themselves tasty, nutritionally sound meals.

Many households rely on processed foods, restaurant meals or fast foods and the toll on society is steep. The cost to our health care system is skyrocketing, and our children are the casualties in this war on obesity.

According to the Centre for Disease Control, obesity rates for children and adolescents tripled since 1980 to a current rate of 17 percent.

Think about the timing here. Parents of children in 1980 were raised in households that welcomed the rise of fast food restaurants, TV dinners and that witnessed the meteoric rise of convenience foods. These things were seen as “liberating” to many women eager to get out of the kitchen and realize themselves in other capacities. However, their children knew less about how to cook “from scratch” and now their children know even less.

Many parents who pick up their children at the camp ask if there could be a cooking camp for adults. Indeed, Kristi Branstetter, the foods lab instructor for the nutritional sciences department, is planning a series of workshops for the fall that will take place in Henderson Building. Or maybe some of this summer’s campers will take over kitchen duties for the family and keep those healthy home fires burning. Our lives now depend upon it.

For more information about cooking programs offered by the College of Health and Human Development, contact Lisa Clapper at 865-8898.