Thursday 13 December 2018

Liz Kearney: I know home economics might not be cool - but everybody's got to eat...

There are very, very few things I learnt at school that I can readily remember these days. An occasional shouty quote from 'King Lear', a line or two of lovelorn romantic poetry, the fact that the sum of the square of the hypotenuse is equal to, um, was it the Módh Coníollach?

But there is one subject that has always stayed with me, because I find myself thinking of it every time I tidy up the contents of the fridge (raw meat on bottom shelf, dairy in the door, condiments on top shelf), separate an egg, or remember that you need to put chewing gum in the freezer to get it off your clothes. That subject is the deeply unsexy one of home economics.

In a world obsessed with digital technology and churning out students who are equipped for the smart economy, it's virtually heretical to claim that domestic science is equally vital. But I'm all in favour of the renewed drive from the Association of Teachers of Home Economics that the subject be made mandatory as a means to combat childhood obesity.

Addressing the Oireachtas Children's Committee yesterday to press their case, the HE teachers argued that spiralling waistlines are our greatest public health challenge, and said that teaching young people how to cook for themselves is an invaluable lifelong skill that will mean they don't need to rely on takeaways when they leave home.

And, they say, it's vital that the boys learn too. "We have moved on from the days of this course being gendered or thought of as centred on cupcakes and bake sales," said the association's president, Maria Hickey. Too right. I was initially reluctant to study home economics for those very reasons: it seemed to epitomise old-fashioned, housewife-style drudgery.

Why would I need to learn to cook when I was going to have a career instead? Well, career or not, it turns out that everyone needs to eat, and short of being able to afford your own personal, in-house chef, you're going to have to grill a chop or boil an egg at some point in your life.

In many modern households, the men are just as likely to be found at the stove as the women.

So the earlier they start, the better for everyone. I only studied the subject for a year and I wish it had been more: I'd dearly love to be able to sew properly and wouldn't it be nice to be DIY proficient as well? Maybe it's time to go back to school for a bit.

It's time to stop hating ourselves

Among the ridiculous questions that celebrities are routinely asked is what part of their physical appearance they dislike the most.

These questions are often directed at famous actresses and supermodels whose flawless faces and bodies have earned them millions.

Nevertheless, these superwomen are still required to isolate some teeny tiny flaw that they must profess to be unhappy with, just to prove the point that they're not so special after all.

Presumably this is supposed to make us ordinary mortals feel better about our own inadequacies when we find out that even Hollywood A-listers don't like their slightly pointy ears or their unusually long toes.

It's ridiculous, of course, so praise be for women like Isabelle Huppert, who was asked this very question by the 'Guardian' this week and responded with a curt "nothing".

Eyebrows were raised. What was Isabelle up to?

What kind of notions were these? What woman in her right mind refuses to engage with the cult of hating themselves? French women, apparently, and rightly so: the sooner we stopped being prompted to find things to hate about ourselves, the better.

Putting the 'It' in knitting circles

It has been a good 10 years since I last had a lengthy conversation about handbags with anyone, which is surely a sign that the past decade has been an economically straitened one indeed.

The heady days of the Celtic Tiger, when you could scarcely step out your front door without someone shoving the latest 'It' bag in your face, seemed to be gone forever.

But things must be looking up because the fashion industry is trying to convince us that the 'It' bag is still a thing.

This year's version is a straw carrier tote that looks like the sort of yoke your Auntie Mary used to carry her knitting around in.

This Prada straw bag retails at an eyewatering €1,200, but fear not, the high street will be along shortly with many interpretations of said 'It' bag, so you don't need to bankrupt yourself in the pursuit of looking like you're en route to your knitting circle. Now if that's not a sure sign that the boom is back, I don't know what is.

Irish Independent

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