“I Can Burn Water”

Students across the country are following a growing trend. It’s attacking all sectors of society €” young professionals, inner-city youths, Baby Boomers, and soon, experts predict, the elderly.

Most frightening, this trend is potentially life-threatening. Or it would be, if those affected were unable to call up the local pizza or Chinese delivery place.

People all over the nation no longer know how to cook. They were never taught, they had no interest in learning, their parents (or grandparents) didn’t cook, and now, they are in the same boat.

“I could probably burn water,” Janea Martin, a senior at the University of California, Davis, said, laughing. “My boyfriend thinks it’s disgraceful. He’s actually a marginally better cook than I am. He’d probably ruin something that required more than three simple steps to make.”

Martin and her boyfriend are not alone. According a piece in the Washington Post about the “dumbing-down” of cookbooks, the ancient knowledge is fading €” leaving 60-year-olds, 40-year-olds, and 20-year-olds taking the same cooking classes.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, 60 percent of Boomer women are in the workforce. This leaves them less time to cook, and pass down cooking knowledge to their children.

As part of the feminist backlash, this fact is pretty important. In the process of escaping the shackles of sexism, some women purposely did not pass on what was considered to be “women’s work” to their daughters.

Martin experienced this first-hand. “My mom didn’t want me to be the only one [in the relationship] cooking, and she’d always say that to me when I mentioned cooking, growing up.”

And now? “Well, I kind of wish she had taught me more €” at least of the basics, because now both my boyfriend and I are kind of helpless in the kitchen,” she said. “It’s less about feminism, and more about basic survival skills.”

According to the Post article, more of the younger generation says they learned how to cook from their fathers and from television shows.

But the basics are what’s lacking. Many students don’t know what the most fundamental cooking terms are.

“‘Creaming?'” said Arion Jamerson, a senior at Howard University. “What’s that?”

Beating is the process of slowly beating together butter and sugar in a mixer.

“I know how to do that,” she said. “I just didn’t know that’s what it was called.”

Unlike many students, Jamerson does know the how of cooking, and does it fairly well, according to her friends. “When I cook, I cook a lot, and it’s usually for a group of my good friends.”

Her most popular dishes are lasagna and creamy mushroom chicken and rice. “Every year, I say I want to get a cookbook, so I can try new dishes, but the truth is, I don’t have time to even look at a cookbook, much less cook,” she said.

If she ever got around to picking out a cookbook, it’s unlikely that it would have too many unfamiliar terms in it. Many cookbook makers are adopting a style that is less technical and more explanatory.

According to Lydia Botham, a former test kitchen director for Land O’ Lakes, in the Post article, “[People] like baking by adding things to a mix. In recipes, they want fewer ingredients — seven is ideal — and they like step-by-step pictures that show them what to do."

Allen Jonson, Martin’s boyfriend, says he wishes he could cook better, and by extension, more. “Eating out all the time, getting delivery, is expensive. And while cafeteria food is cheaper, it’s pretty gross.”

“Besides,” he adds, “we’re seniors. We’re graduating, and it’s time to start doing adult things like buying more than just alcohol and microwave dinners at the grocery store.”