Lessons Learned

One sunny day last summer my neighbor’s daughter, age nine, came to my door on an errand to borrow some sugar or an egg, or something like that.*


As I handed off the item she was there to fetch I also wrote out a note to her mother and handed it to her.  She said, “I can’t read that.  In cursive, I can only read my name.”


Her statement stayed with me after she ran off and I thought about it throughout the day — and still am as this is almost a year later when I write this. I had heard about The Common Core education standards years ago when in 2013 it was determined cursive was no longer a needed skill to teach in school. It takes too long to teach, especially when increasingly computers, tablets, and phone texting has all but totally replaced every day message delivery.


In the context of The War In My Kitchen, I’m feeling very concerned about the extinction of family recipes. For one reason, while some home-delivery cooking programs like Hello Fresh® and Blue Apron® are bringing cooking back to the home, they are making it almost too easy. It is real food, and in many cases good food, but with it magically showing up at the door, we’re not learning about where food really comes from.  Not even from a grocery store anymore, are kids to think cabbage grows in a FedEx® truck?


Second, the corporate recipes are coming printed on glossy card stock in color with lots and lots of how-to pictures through the steps. We’re missing lessons handed down from family members actually showing the techniques and family way of doing the steps.


Third, the saddest to me is that we are losing the hand-written — cursive — recipe card with ingredient stains on a scrap of paper or index card. These cards appear to be written in code to someone younger than fifth or sixth grade.


Maybe one day it will become in fashion again to learn old-fashioned cooking and baking using the “retro” system of recipes written in cursive; I hope so anyway.


If we move too far beyond the current generation of not learning cursive, the recipes will fade and become lost. Sure, we can take the time to transcribe the hand-written recipes to computer and print them out or store them on a flash drive, but we lose something in translation when we stop reading the recipe written in the hand of a great-grandmother or great-aunt who learned very well the core lessons of reading, writing, and arithmetic.



* Yes, even though I live in the very modern suburbs of Chicago, I insist on old-fashioned treatment from my neighbors where we indeed pass pantry items over the fence or share recipe details. We need to get back to this sort of living and I plan to share some advice that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt shared with me (and others) very soon.

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