"Medium Raw" is one of these books you can't put down. It's the latest bestseller by TV superstar, cooking veteran and food & travel writer Anthony Bourdain (of "No Reservations" and "Kitchen Confidential" fame).
[As an aside, I don't know if you've read "Kitchen Confidential" before, but if you love New-York, food, bars and restaurants, you just HAVE to add this book to your Christmas list. It's not for the faint-hearted though. Think classified kitchen antics, locker-room sex jokes, booze, drugs and rock' n' roll. And lots of swearing in Spanish. A bit like a cross between Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Entourage.]
Anyway, one of the chapters in "Medium Raw" (which Bourdain wrote after he became a dad) really struck a chord with me.
Bourdain has this theory that basic cooking skills are something that every boy and girl should be taught to do in school, alongside other fundamental life skills such as writing, reading and processing numbers. In line with other chefs such as Jamie Oliver, he thinks this would be an excellent way to encourage healthier eating and fight obesity.
Boy, I couldn't agree more.
Bourdain then goes on to list 15 essential cooking skills one could expect of any citizen of voting age. So "in a shiny, happy, perfect world of the future, what should every man, woman and teenager know how to do"?
2) Everyone should be able to make an omelet. The process of learning to make an omelet is not just a technique but a builder of character: a certain measure of sensitivity is needed to discern what's going on in your pan, and what to do about it. I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able to make them a proper omelet in the morning.
3) Everyone should be able to roast a chicken - and do it well.
4) They should know how to grill and rest a steak. We have, as a nation, suffered the tyranny of inept steak cookery far too long. There's no reason that generations of families should continue to pass along a tradition of massacring perfectly good meat in their kitchen or backyards.
5) A standard vinaigrette is something anyone can and should be able to do.
6) Cooking vegetables to a desired doneness.
7) The ability to shop for fresh produce and have at least some sense of what's in season, to tell whether or not something is ripe or rotten might be acquired at the same time as one's driving license.
8) How to recognise a fish that's fresh, clean and filet it.
9) Steaming a lobster or a crab is something a fairly bright chimp could do without difficulty, so there's no reason we all can't.
10) One should be able to roast and mash potatoes.
11) And make rice.
13) Every citizen should know how to throw a piece of meat in the oven with the expectation that they might roast it to somewhere in the neighborhood of desired doneness.
14) What to do with bones (namely, make stock) and how to make a few soups.
15) Everyone should be encouraged at every turn to develop their own modest yet unique repertoire - to find a few dishes they love and practice at preparing them until they are proud of the result. At college, where money is usually tight and good meals are rare, the ability to throw together a decent meal for your friends would probably be much admired.
Anthony Bourdain (picture credit The Travel Channel)
And Bourdain to conclude with a call to arms for all the parents of the world: "Why can we not do this? There is no reason in the world! Let us go forward then. With vigor."
So what do you think? Should basic cooking skills taught to our children in school? And what do you think of the list, anything we should add?
To follow Anthony Bourdain's travel adventures, check out his blog "Comfort Zone". You can also read this exclusive, no holds barred interview on www.NotQuiteNigella.com: "Girls, bloggers, and how Anthony Bourdain would like to die".