ANDERSON, Ind. —
When Nancy Gates began teaching home economics decades ago, most if not all of her students were girls. The focus of the food classes was on cooking.
Today, Gates — a teacher in Family and Consumer Sciences (it’s no longer home economics) — said she has more boys in her class than girls and much of the focus is on nutrition, budgeting for food and making good choices.
One of her favorite recipes — golden cream soup — is part of her classes; it teaches several lessons, including some that she finds surprising. Many students have never peeled, chopped or cubed vegetables. Some have never understood the importance of following a recipe or the terms used in cooking.
“When I introduce the recipe to students a lot of them see all those veggies in it and say, ‘I don’t know about that,’” Gates said laughing. “But when they taste it they really do seem to enjoy it.”
With this recipe students learn measuring techniques by making and thickening a sauce with flour and cheese, simmering and constantly stirring.
“It is important when you are thickening a sauce that you cook it at a low temperature and stir constantly so it doesn’t scorch,” Gates said. “And if you want to make a lower calorie version you can use skim milk instead of whole and use low-fat cheese in place of the Velveeta.”
Gates enjoys the growing focus on wellness and nutrition at the high school.
“So many students are responsible for doing some cooking at home and at the high school level they are getting to the age where they are soon going to be independent,“ she said. “I think it is important for them to have the cooking and consumer skills to make wise choices with their food budgets."
The courses incorporate an all-encompassing picture into education, not just cooking, techniques and terms. Students learn how to read food labels, prepare things from scratch, budget, using small appliances and nutrition and wellness.
Abbey Doyle is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind.