If you’re around my age, you probably had Home Ec as an actual class in school. You know, where you planned menus, mock “shopped” (or some similar budgeting exercise), learned the basics of making noodles, simple cakes, and how to shine a stainless steel sink.
[Total sidenote: Back in my high school days (~mid 80s), Home Ec included an extensive unit on sewing, where my greatest accomplishment was trying to sew my oxford-style shirt’s sleeve inside out, upside down, and backwards. (Mrs. Neurben, a wonderful woman who was very near retirement at the time, couldn’t stop laughing at that one. In fact, for WEEKS after that, every time she saw me, she cracked up. Claimed she hadn’t seen anything so “mucked up” in all her 38 years of teaching. *Sigh* Seems I’ve always been the kind of person to be someone’s entertainment.]
To the best of my knowledge, these kinds of courses are all but defunct in today’s schools. I can speculate on the reasons for this, but really, they don’t matter. The point is: the class is gone, but each of us (unless you’re a lottery winner, I guess) still needs to acquire the skills of cooking, cleaning, budgeting, and basic housekeeping.
Now, this entire topic has been banging around my melon off and on now for over a year. How do you teach your kids these basic skills? Or better yet, and more germane to my own shortcomings: how do you teach them when you’re not so good at them yourself? [I’ve got the cooking/kitchen/budgeting, and even minor household repair down pretty well, but the cleaning? Not so much!]
Home Ec 101
Luckily for slacker parents like me, a funny, smart woman has written a book on these very topics. (And incidentally, have you ever noticed how many times you are bailed out by a funny, smart woman???? A LOT!)
Home Ec 101, written by Heather Solos – who also happens to have a very nice blog – covers everything from which knife to buy to inexpensive household cleaners to the basic anatomy of a recipe and things to think about before attempting wall repair. It’s unbelievably comprehensive.
And yes, when I first looked at it, the book was kind of long. But as I perused the table of contents, I was struck with the realization of how wide and vast the basics of domesticity really ARE.
And then. Then, I read it. Cover to cover. And honestly, with my recent literary diet consisting of the nytimes.com, jsonline.com, some modern-day poetry, and a whole lotta chic lit, not to mention several hundred mom blogs each week, you really have to be on your game (writing wise) to keep me engrossed.
But Solos did it. She has taken a topic that has almost become viewed as a four-letter-word (as in: ‘you are a STAY AT HOME MOM? Are you nuts?’ ‘you LIKE cooking and cleaning? What’s WRONG with you?’ etc. etc. etc.), and skinned it of all things mundane and boring.
In fact, Home Ec 101 is downright engaging. Really interesting. Fun, even! And no, I’m not joking!! Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:
- “Maybe in ten years scientists will find the gene responsible for the expression of self-discipline; until then we’re stuck with a choice: either hire out or clean up.” – on the inevitability of cleaning
- “History is messy.” – on clutter
- “A successful meal won’t be remembered if everyone spends the evening in the ER with food poisoning.” – on kitchen clean-up and food safety
Home Ec 101 would make an excellent graduation gift or wedding shower present. And… dare I say it? It’s a great refresher-type course for those of us who’ve been doing this for twenty-odd years. (For example, I did not know to “avoid carbon steel knives. Yes, they can be sharpened easily, but they lose their edge quickly and discolor some foods, often leaving a metallic taste behind.”)
In fact, I think at long last I have found the female equivalent of [the spirit] my favorite Red Green quote: “If you can’t be handsome, at least you can be handy.”
I wrote this review while participating in a PR campaign by One to One Network, and I received a copy of the ebook to facilitate my candid review.