Cookery in Schools – March, 1876

The question of teaching cookery in the public schools has lately been much considered in England, and arrangements have been made by which the object can be effected. The National Training School for Cookery has been for some time in successful operation, and is now prepared to supply teachers qualified to instruct in this novel branch of school learning. The course pursued at present is for a number of the inhabitants of several adjoining school districts to form by subscription a fund sufficient to guarantee a certain rate of payment to the teacher. Sometimes a young lady of the locality is first sent to the Training School to take a course of instruction there, sufficient to qualify her for a teacher. At other times a teacher already qualified is obtained from the Training School.

Cooking ClassThe teacher gives one lesson a week in each school to a class of girls whose parents are willing to pay a small fee for this advantage. She may also, in addition, form classes of ladies who desire to improve their knowledge of cookery, and who, pay a higher fee for the more elaborate instruction they receive. In this way a great number of persons are benefited, and the instructress receives an income which may be sufficient; but, if not, it is supplemented from the subscription fund in the hands of the committee. Sometimes a separate school or class specially for cookery is established.

A writer in one of the London papers gives an interesting account of such a school, which has been opened in that city for teaching the children of the poorer classes the simple elements of cookery, and to enable them to prepare cheap and savory dishes for the sick and invalid. About fifteen girls attend— all that the room will accommodate. They pay threepence a lesson, and get besides a dinner of their own cooking. The school is held every Saturday, from ten to four. The pupils first go to market, a few of the girls in turn accompanying the teacher, to learn how to select the articles of food, and to judge of their quality and the proper price to pay for them. On their return, the proper modes of cooking the articles are briefly explained, and a written receipt is given to each girl, who is required to work from it. The teacher, of course, superintends the whole, pointing out defects, and taking care that the pupils are made to understand the virtues of forethought, neatness, and good management. There are usually visitors present, often the clergymen and other members of the committee, who all sit down with the pupils to the dinner which has thus been prepared. After this satisfactory part of the duty has been performed, four of the girls in turn are appointed to wash the dishes and make everything tidy.

The average age of the pupils is between twelve and thirteen years. They are generally, it is stated, the daughters of working men of the better class, and yet in many instances they had no knowledge of the simplest process of cookery. Some of them did not know how to cook potatoes, or even to wash a dish. Now they are so much interested in the work that they willingly give up to it their only school holiday in the week. Moreover, on each Saturday the receipt for the next week is read out and copied by the girls, who take the copies home with them, and thus interest their mothers in the work. Of course, threepence a week for each pupil is not sufficient to pay for the teaching and the dinner. The remainder of the expense, sixteen shillings (about $4) a week, is made up by subscription.

Cooking ClassIf instruction in this art is to be generally introduced into our schools, a somewhat different system must be framed. These English methods will, however, afford valuable hints to persons who desire to make a commencement. There can be no doubt of the importance of the object in view. As a people, we are sadly deficient in the knowledge of the best methods of preparing food, as regards both economy and health. In this respect we are far behind other nations, particularly the French and Germans. Some one has said that the food which is wasted in England would feed all the French, and feed them well. This remark may be applied with still more emphasis to the waste in this country. The loss of food, however, is not so serious as the loss of health. We have been styled, with some truth, a nation of dyspeptics, and what is worst is that the epithet applies in its full force, not merely to the pent-up and over-stimulated denizens of our cities, but also far too generally to our farmers, for whom all the advantages of pure air, regular hours, and cheerful out-of-door labor, are more than neutralized by the effects of bad cookery.

The preparation of food, like the raising of it, is both an art and a science. For many years past the attention of the ablest minds, scientific and practical, chemists and cultivators, has been given to the improvement of agriculture. A library of books on the subject, and numerous periodicals, with a vast array of agricultural associations, supported by public money, have aided our farmers in this work. Meanwhile, in the preparation of the food which is thus raised, their wives and daughters have been allowed to stumble along in the old methods, or with no method, ignorant of the scientific principles on which the art of cookery is based, and with no opportunity of acquiring a knowledge of the improved processes that prevail in other countries. The result is seen in many ailments, leading to the consumption of vast quantities of quack medicines, and in not a few cases, it is to be feared, to habits of intemperance. Wholesome cookery is surely quite as important as good agriculture. If our nation is to be improved alike in health and wealth, both these arts should be cultivated, and a knowledge of the true principles and best methods of each should be diffused as widely as possible.

Godey’s Lady’s Book— Louis Antoine Godey began publishing Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1830. He designed his monthly magazine specifically to attract the growing audience of literate American women. The magazine was intended to entertain, inform, and educate the women of America.

Collection: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Publication: Godey’s Lady’s Book
Date: March, 1876
Title: Cookery in Schools
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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