Home Economics: It’s Still Here, and Here’s Why It’s More Important Than Ever

Every so often a meme pops up on Facebook saying that schools should teach more life skills like cooking, sewing, and how to write a check. The same friends who post these memes seem to forget that the subject formerly called “Home Ec.” is alive and thriving in most public schools and I teach it. Now called Family and Consumer Sciences, I will admit that here in New Jersey it is not what it used to be. State colleges that are now universities once offered the curriculum that included education, consumer sciences, interior design, nutrition, and child development. At Montclair State you could explore careers in food photography, dietetics, or the test kitchen at Good Housekeeping. But now the hallways are empty and the subject matter has been incorporated into different departments, like the art department which offers fashion, and financial literacy, which is now distributed around several different curricula.

So do our students really need a cooking class?

YES!!! And it’s not just a “life skill.” I am currently teaching in a middle school, and while my students are all enamored with shows like Iron Chef, Jr and Master Chef Jr, they are also there for the “mental break” from a day filled with stressors. And by stressors I don’t just mean math class (which always sent me over the edge when I was in school). In this day and age of social media, our students have outside stressors such as who said what on TikTok (“Facebook is so yesterday Mrs. Sat!”) and Instagram. In my Fashion class, which runs for a 10 week cycle, I saw kids relax and enjoy creating things out of felt and old clothing, and relax and talk with each other without using a cell phone. For 45 blissful minutes there are no PAARC tests, no Snapchat, and no worry about problems at home. An added bonus is that they now know how to fix their yoga pants when they rip, or sew a button on a shirt. And, yes, there are boys in my classes! Both fashion and cooking! In the cooking classes we incorporate fun cooking competitions while learning how to make healthy choices in our recipes. Last year a student lost her mother and our class time was a refuge from the pain. It was a time when we learned to make tea and that a hot cup of vanilla tea with our friends while eating cookies became a way to escape for a few short minutes.

Yes, we do need more of these programs. We do need to teach our students that not only are the core classes important but so are the classes that teach you about life and how to stop and take a minute to nourish the mind with something other than a math problem or social media.

Here’s my recipe for today:

The Original 1960’s  M&M cookie recipe: WARNING! This is not a  healthy recipe! : )

½ cup shortening-Crisco (that’s right the white stuff in the can). Yes you can substitute butter or do ½ and ½ but it’s not the same!

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar (the white stuff)(dry ingredient)

½ tsp vanilla

¼ T water (I use 1 tsp it’s close enough!)

1 egg

1 cup + 2 T sifted flour (key word is sifted. Sift then measure)

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

¾ cup or more of M&M’s (less if you eat them while making this recipe!)

Blend shortening and brown sugar together. I use my electric mixer but you could go old school and use the wooden spoon.

Beat in the vanilla, water, and egg.

Sift dry ingredients (yes the flour is getting sifted a 2nd time) and add into the wet ingredients (I sift right into the bowl of wet ingredients. Blend well.

Add in M&Ms using a wooden spoon and drop from a teaspoon (any old kitchen teaspoon will do!) onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Press on additional M&Ms if you haven’t eaten them all.

Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden brown. TIP: If you are using 2 baking sheets make sure to rotate the sheets from top to bottom to ensure even baking.

Cool and enjoy with a glass of cold skim milk! Hey, we have to cut the calories somewhere!

Laurie Satmaria teaches Family and Consumer Science.


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