Successive generations of parents have let their children leave their homes without the basic skills they need to feed themselves properly, Chef Darina Allen has warned.
She was speaking after a UK study found that more than one-quarter of adults do not know how to boil an egg.
The Waitrose survey also found that less than one-fifth have ever made a salad dressing and less than half had ever baked a sponge cake.
Despite this more than one-third of people said they view themselves as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ cooks.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, celebrity chef and founder of the Ballymaloe Cookery School Darina Allen said she was ‘shocked but not really surprised’ by the findings.
“It is shocking isn’t it and it is very sort of serious if you want to put it that way,” she said.
“So much depends on being able to cook easily – otherwise you are sort of dependant on all sorts of other people for anything you eat really, aren’t you?”
She said she does not believe people have become too lazy – but noted that “life seems to be so much busier for everybody nowadays than it used to be”.
“The other thing is several generations have now never seen their parents ever cook anything at home in the kitchen because both people are working and all of that,” she said.
“So that’s one of the problems – as mothers and grandmothers and so on, we’ve let our children out of our houses without giving them, often, the basic skills they need to feed themselves properly.”
Ms Allen said the findings make her “feel like such a failure”, having spent her whole life trying to teach people how to cook.
“I feel so strongly that cooking and practical cooking should be absolutely embedded in our national school curriculum,” she said.
“It is not just the parent – the schools could make such a difference.
“A couple of years ago, I started several campaigns to try to get cooking back on the curriculum and I have to tell you, it’s been a complete failure, yet everyone I talk to says, ‘Oh my goodness yes that is such an important thing.
“I mean it is every bit as important as maths or science or anything else.
“You know, the STEM subjects are hugely important obviously, but my goodness, to have the basic skills to feed yourself – otherwise we don’t have the skills to actually survive and it’s all about ultra-processed foods otherwise.”
"Such a joy"
Ms Allen said she never understands what people do with the time they save by not cooking.
“I suppose, in a funny way it’s not such a priority for a lot of people,” she said.
“I think, often, we don’t realise how much depends on dinner; on being able to cook something. It’s such a joy to be able to whip up, spontaneously, a little pasta or a scrambled egg or something and sit down around the kitchen table and have it together.”
She urged anyone who feels strongly about the need to teach children to cook and feed themselves to get on to their local TD and call for cooking to return to the school curriculum.
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