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Teach children how to cook and they won’t become obese

My friend Alistair loves Latin. It doesn’t half come in handy when visiting old churches, ordering Italian dishes and at the pub quiz. But poor Alistair, an academic schoolboy, was forced to choose between the pursuit of the classics and five periods a week of home economics.

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As much as I enjoy hearing from Alistair about Pliny and his various letters, he would have benefited from learning to cook. He can hardly open a can of baked beans.

The number of children who can prepare a meal has been declining for years. When I was young, cookery classes at school were bracketed, pejoratively, with woodwork and metalwork. It was what stupid children did, those that had no academic ability.

Jamie Oliver, Gary Rhodes and Ainsley Harriot are so alarmed about this that they have written to Michael Gove to ensure the subject remains on the curriculum for secondary school children. I would go a step further: I would make cookery compulsory for every child until the age of fourteen.

I’m not suggesting that every child will become a Michelin star chef. But a deeper understanding of produce, farming and nutrition would inform their eating for the rest of their lives. And this lifelong influence would affect the health and well-being of the nation; children who cook for themselves will end up cooking for their families.

Don’t believe me? Compare the instances of obesity in 1970 (when most schools still taught cooking) with 2010. Excuse me while I teach Alistair how to toast a piece of bread.

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