I’ve got a lump on my head. It’s not my fault. I was coming down the stairs this morning and, because the laces on my shoes weren’t tied, I stood with one shoe on the lace of the other and found that my foot was anchored to the floor. As I was already leaning forward in a completely unbalanced state and, at the same time, as my hands were occupied carrying two cases, I of course toppled forward and one of the first bits of me to make contact with that floor was my head. Hence the lump.

If only someone had taught me to tie my shoelaces. I know I should be able to do it because I’ve seen others with their laces tied and, unless they still live with their mothers, they’re likely tying them themselves.

It’s the same with my tie. I’d love to wear one of those proper ones that go all around my neck but, because no one’s ever shown me how, I have to make do with one of those you clip on. Useful in the event of a fight, of course, and I know the fashion’s for open necks these days but it’d be nice to have the choice.

Whether you believe these things or not, luckily I was taught by my mum how to cook otherwise I’d have been as ignorant as I’ve just described and, as a result, have to live on ready food and the occasional meal out. Without a doubt my life would have been that much poorer.

In a poll last year, carried by that august body, the Potato Council, it was found that out of over 2,000 people surveyed, four-fifths of mothers said they rarely or never taught their children to cook. And I guess that goes for the fathers as well.

My daughters, both in their twenties and now flown their nests, continue to call, text and email with questions about how to cook this bit of fish or that dessert and to tell me about the various dishes they’ve cooked. And I believe, or at least hope, that they have similar memories to me of seeing pans from head-height, watching their parent gain a great deal of satisfaction from deliberating over steaming aromas, and being allowed to sample the occasional spoonful of delight. And later, as the years progressed, of being shown how to cook, and encouraged to participate in the preparation of, meals for themselves and others.

Of those in the survey, only half of the mothers questioned thought they were good cooks compared with three-quarters of grandmothers. What of the next generation? Only a quarter confident of turning out an acceptable meal? And then what for subsequent ones? And where will we get our chefs from if parents don’t interest their children?

And when people are asked why they don’t cook, the most common reason given doesn’t seem to include the most obvious: plain ignorance. Rather they think that they’re too busy which it’s all to easy to prove is usually just untrue. It seems we’re in danger of becoming like that overweight, unemployed and unenlightened family in the news not long ago that reckoned they didn’t have time to diet.

It’s obvious really. We all need to be taught the basics in life and, to many extents, we are. But we seem to be ignoring one of life’s fundamentals; one of the things that we have to experience every day – eating – and the preparation of the food we eat. Thanks to my mum I learnt to cook and, as a result, my life is of a higher quality than it would have been otherwise. And, while we’re on the subject, thank goodness she bothered to take me through the business of potty training.

Originally posted April 2010

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