So, smart teachers constantly ask “what’s the transferable skill that I want kids to know & be able to do?” They strive to make sure that kids are learning and practicing the higher-order thinking that will carry them through life, long after they’ve forgotten the capital of every state, the order and duration of China’s Imperial Dynasties, and all the counties in the state of Washington. This makes me wonder about the skills and thinking that we’re bringing into our cooking as well as those we are taking away. To what extent do cultural values inform and cultivate culinary priorities?
And a long-standing question has been how the local agriculture and preservation methods have influenced cooking. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not, really, when we consider that we now can make absolutely anything we want as long as we can find the crazy ingredients in a major cosmopolis or online at places like Dean & DeLuca. We’ve surpassed the limitations of the “food store,” which I connect to a river’s watershed–the areas supplied by a resource. Ann Vileisis, in her recent work, Kitchen Literacy, explores the phenomenon of a “covenant of ignorance” thanks to the convenience of farming. We no longer are limited to the meat we can get from the farmer down the road; now that farmer can be across the country. We don’t know where that farmer is and we don’t want to know.
So, what’s the critical thinking that we can transfer into this process of getting anything anytime to cook anything we want. Is it a good thing? And what are the implications for what we value and choose to cultivate…what are our individual priorities that we represent in our cooking? When we teach students how strong readers think about what they’re reading, we teach them to use their prior knowledge and personal connections to help them make meaning, explore and question the text. Have we lost the personal connection in cooking, or is our ability to explore anything allowing us to connect personally? Is our ability to reach beyond the local, the fresh, the known a good thing?