Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Why I Never Learned to Cook (and why it is important)

It isn't right to judge people, even the judgmental.  It is something I struggle with daily, most recently when I saw this article:

This Onion Article Perfectly Illustrates Why No One Should Judge A Person On Food Stamps

While I agree we shouldn't judge a person on food stamps, for me, the article missed a huge part of the point.  The article focuses on the statistic that a growing number of America's armed service members are on food stamps, as well as many other households who have at least one person who is gainfully employed.  It is the typical American stance, if I have to do something, you have to do it.  If I have to be tested for drugs at my place of employment, you should be tested to get financial assistance.  If I have to work, you have to work, and if you're not working, you deserve nothing.  I could write and yell and whisper until I fell into my grave that this IS NOT empathy, except for oneself.  It seems to plainly come from a place of resentment.

In this article, however, the point that slapped me across the face was the woman, Carol Gaither, who judged what food stamp recipients were purchasing.  I've long heard concerns about them buying alcohol or cigarettes, but she resented them buying "Frosted Flakes" or other brand name goods, as well as, "high priced TV dinners."  "She also notes that two whole chickens and a bag of potatoes could inexpensively feed her family for a week."

Well goody for you Carol Gaither.

Let me tell you a little about myself.  I am an only child.  I grew up in a middle class home.  I have no debt and have never been a food stamp recipient.  But if I was one, you would be standing behind me in line, judging me.

Even on Thanksgiving, the vegetables on my mother's table came from a can.  No, they were not mixed into some sort of tasty casserole.  They were dumped out of the can, heated on the stove or in the microwave, and placed on my plate next to dry turkey and faux potatoes.  Yes, "Potato Buds."  Every Friday we had "Swansons."

Would it surprise you to know there are people who have never had real potatoes?  Or people working full time who have never cooked a chicken?  Who would stare at a raw one like a deer in headlights having no idea what to do or even where to begin?

It was only after my mother's death and teaching myself to cook via the services of Blue Apron, that I realized my mother had probably never had what could be described as "a delicious meal" in her life.  The idea certainly explained her tasteless, charcoaled, dry meats and why she never even mentioned food could taste better than this.  Why she never learned to cook, I can only guess, but as she was also so shy as to be a borderline agoraphobic, an easy guess would be she never had one at a restaurant or a friend's house either.

If my mother, who was a stay-at-home housewife from the time she married my father, didn't know how to cook and never taught me, why would you assume that people who are in the situation where they have to use food stamps (in a world where they are aware they will be judged for doing so) have been trained to cook anything from scratch?  When I went to college, I knew how to cook the following:  boil corn on the cob, boil hot dogs, toast bread for peanut butter and jelly, and open a bag of  "Peanut M&Ms."

Meanwhile, do high schools even have a class called "Home Economics" anymore, or has it gone the way of music, drama or art?  Some of the things we no longer are willing to pay to teach our nation's youth are skill sets we need our nation's citizens to have.  Do you honestly believe that everyone has so much debt and so little savings because they are happy living that way?  Couldn't it perhaps be because Americans won't pay to have children taught about finances in school and no one at home has the knowledge to fill the gap?

Things to think about the next time you are cluck cluck clucking about anybody in public doing anything of which you personally disapprove.  If you don't like it, don't do it, but remember, that person you're judging?  They may not know any other way.

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