Cooking isn't cool for boys, apparently. So uncool, in fact, that teenage lads don't want to be associated with it in any way so education bosses have decided to call it Food Preparation instead. Snappy and pzzazzy, eh?
Why? Well, Department for Education officials held a focus group which told them that 'Cooking And Nutrition' - the name of the GCSE intended to replace food technology, home economics and catering - could have a 'possible detrimental impact' on attracting boys to the subject.
Personally, I think this is total egg wash, sorry, hogwash, as does food writer Tom Parker Bowles, who said: "After all the changes of the past 30 years in British cooking, surely we've got to a point where there's no shame for a man or a boy to be doing a cooking class? I am absolutely gobsmacked people are worrying about things like this. Real men can cook and do cook."
But a Department for Education spokesman defended the decision, saying: "Our plan for education is ensuring that all pupils leave school with the knowledge and skills they need for a wide range of jobs and is debunking the notion that some subjects are for boys and some are for girls.
"The title of the new food preparation and nutrition GCSE was chosen to reflect the inclusion of more scientific knowledge underpinning cooking as well as a clear focus on health and nutrition.
"Many respondents to our consultation also felt that using the word 'cookery' would downgrade the subject."
If any of this is true, then I am here to beg to differ – and to convince your sons that cooking is one of the greatest skills a boy can ever learn. Here, purely from my own experience, are 8 reasons why...
IT'S THE WAY TO A WOMAN'S HEART
If you're as unblessed as I am in the looks, charm and money department, options for bagging the love of your life are limited. That's where cooking comes in. On the second date with the woman who was to become my wife I snared the love trap with spiced scallops with black pudding and pea puree. She'd love to leave me, but she daren't risk not eating wagyu fillet steak and triple-cooked chips ever again!
FRIENDSHIPS FOR LIFE
My best friendships were formed over food, swapping recipes, sharing tips, cooking for each other and others. Once a year, we get together for a Pie-Off – a competitive pie-making contest. I haven't won yet, but the benefits of knowing how to cook go way beyond that: over the years, that bonding over food has evolved into simply a love of each others' company, and when we became fathers, we started a regular Dads Dining Club.
KNIVES. LOTS AND LOTS OF KNIVES
My wife bought me a set of Tojiro Japanese knives for my birthday some years back. They're made of 67 layers of steel and when my friends come round they coo and oo as if I've just shown them my latest supermodel girlfriend or a supercar. But bragging aside, the joy of a well-balanced super-sharp knife in your hand is like no other: it slices through an onion like butter – but without making you skrike like a baby because it doesn't tear apart the onion's tear-inducing cell walls like a blunt knife does.
GADGETS. LOTS AND LOTS OF GADGETS
And even better than knives are the gadgets that come with cooking. Blow-torches, water baths, slow cookers, spice grinders and smokers. More exhilarating than watching F1. More satisfying than showing strangers your dangly bits on WhatsApp (I imagine). Much better for you than spending hours shooting avatars on Grand Theft Auto
NON-SPORTY BOYS CAN BECOME LEGENDS IN THEIR OWN LUNCHTIMES (literally)
Not everyone can be a footballing god, a rugger hero, a cricketing icon. Some of us are just very, very bad at sport. But there are other routes to achieving legendary status in the online world. Sharing memes of dogs and glasses and cats with frowns is one of them. So to is re-tweeting the banal musings of celebrities. But cooking and sharing the product of your endeavours is the best. I started a food blog four years ago when I was made redundant. My Reluctant Housedad's Recipe Shed now has an online following running into the
thousands hundreds tens. But the numbers don't matter: cooking is about sharing and making others happy, no matter how many.
CHOOSE WHAT YOU WANT TO EAT
Cooking is for culinary control freaks. How many times have you sat at the table and had a plate of unpalatable gruel plonked in front of you? How many dinner parties have you been to and been served a portion so huge you've needed a crane to lift you into the taxi? How many times have you felt you winced at the amount of salt, sugar or vinegar in a dish? How often have you embarrassed yourself at a friend's house when they serve their signature dish and it turns out to be the one thing you're allergic to? (OK, just me then). None of these catastrophes happen when you cook for yourself and others. You cook what you want, to the doneness you desire, and seasoning that makes your palate sing. And if other people don't like it, sod 'em: let them make their own!
THERAPY FOR THE MIND
Busy day at work? Cook. Kids freaking you out? Cook? Bad news about an old friend? Cook, cook, cook. Cooking is an incredible therapy for when you're feeling stressed. It focuses the mind, forces you to concentrate on your ingredients, method, temperatures and times. It locks you away in the kitchen rather than shouting at everyone in the living room. It is the best form of mind therapy. And then you get to eat nice stuff!
If you have no interest in cooking for any of the above reasons, then do it for love: love for yourself and for your family. Processed foods are the devil's cuisine. This is a fact. Only last week, a new report that the chemicals that combine to make them more-ish are addictive and make you fat. So ditch the convenience, learn to cook, and give yourself and your loved ones a healthy future.
Do you agree?