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The Lost Joy of Cooking

The art of cooking can be learned – and lost – in a generation. When I talked with a public health advocate earlier this year, she told me that some immigrants from the Caribbean can lose the ability to cook from scratch within a generation. In the opinion of a writer from the Havana Journal, after a generation of revolutionary rationing in which cooking slipped off the menu, Cuban cuisine has not recovered.

In the kitchen, if you don't use a skill, you lose it. This makes the passionate statements of slow food advocates such as the two chefs interviewed in Grist this month even more poignant. One mentions the need for cooking classes. But if reintroducing cooking from scratch has as many environmental benefits as its advocates claim, community center classes and farmer's market demonstrations should only be the beginning of a larger project.

I see this as a business opportunity for recent immigrants here in the United States. When immigrants arrive with this skill, they can help the rest of us learn to cook. First-generation immigrants could also teach second-generation immigrants the cooking skills they are losing.

If even food writer Mark Bittman can forget how to grill after living in Manhattan for a few years, the rest of us might forget too. Bittman, who shows courage in the kitchen, has also written about the experience of forgetting how to bake bread.

Those of you who are jumping at the chance to make your own pickled vegetables and other traditional food – whether out of curiosity or for environmental reasons – can check out The Lost Art of Real Cooking: Rediscovering the Pleasures of Traditional Food One Recipe at a Time. I also recommend a blog by Jenn Campus – also known as The Leftover Queen – who teaches culturally deprived cooks like me how to dry apples for winter storage, make homemade Nutella, concoct kefir, and mix natural fruit soda.

Betcha didn't think you could make homemade Nutella. (Source: The Leftover Queen blog)