The Lost Art of Home Economics

I always find it a curious HiResthing when anyone tells me that they don’t know how to cook.

“So how do you eat?” I’ll ask.

“I eat out a lot,” is often the forthcoming reply.

This week’s Daily Post Writing Challenge is on a subject that I’ve been ruminating about for a long time now: a lost art. I find that one of the lost arts of our time is simple domestic duties like cooking and sewing.

The term “home economics” conjures up images.of women shackled to their houses, with no other purpose in life other than to cook, clean, wash, and sew. I can hardly blame anyone for having this view because this is what we were brought up on and with the negativity surrounding it, I can see women and men giving cooking and sewing a wide berth. Even those who cannot afford it take pride in going out to eat every night or they’ve refused to learn to cook for themselves, just to disassociate themselves from the dreaded domestic chores.

I work outside my home and I have children. I know that it can be super difficult to juggle so many tasks and still come home and perform other manual tasks. I’m also aware that it’s so much easier to buy your food than to cook it yourself.

But it still saddens me that I continue to meet men and women who don’t even own a pot or have no idea what to do with a vegetable. Or kids who think that refrigerator is just for storing beer.

I guess my angst is really for people who not only won’t cook, but who actually don’t know how to cook and won’t learn. I’m a bit biased because I like to cook and I was raised by a mom who also enjoyed baking and cooking. And yes, she worked outside the home and raised two children. My older brother knows how to cook for himself and my mom made sure of that.

“You need to know how to take care of yourself,” she would always tell him. “This way, no woman can take advantage of you.”

Well, her heart was in the right place.

iStock_000005788035SmallSewing seems to have lost all appeal entirely. Part of the reason for this, I believe, is the relative low price of most clothing pieces and the constant “come hither” store sales several times per year. But even so, if you have an unraveling thread on a blouse, would you throw it away or just try and repair it yourself? I understand that sewing, like other home economic subjects and auto mechanics, have fallen afoul of being labelled as “menial tasks”, but even fashion designers had to learn about cloth, threads, and sewing. And I’m pretty sure Versace didn’t consider sewing to be menial. Cha-ching!

I bought a sewing machine two years ago because my daughter suddenly developed an interest in fashion design. I was taught to sew by my mom and we also did sewing in school. Unfortunately, sewing isn’t taught in my kid’s school so now it falls on me to either teach her myself or find a sewing class. I’ve tried to teach her, but I’d still love for her to get more formal training, and that’s become a type of impossible treasure hunt. With all the craft stores in all the malls near me, no one seems to have a sewing class for teens. Several stores nearby cater to seamstresses and sell cloth, sewing notions, sewing machines, the whole shebang, but no sewing classes. The closest class is over an hour away at another store in that chain, so I’m still looking.

I’m no domestic diva, for certain. And I don’t believe everyone needs to know how to whip up a souffle at the drop of a hat or make their entire wardrobe of clothes. But I do think sewing and cooking are great skills for everyone to possess. At the very least, in these times when money is tight and we’re all crying out over rising prices, save a few dollars by dining in more times per week than dining out.

8 replies

  1. Very nice. This is a great line. “You need to know how to take care of yourself,” she would always tell him. “This way, no woman can take advantage of you.”
    I bought a nice sewing machine years ago and have yet to dive in. When I was young I used to help my Mom sew quilts (big family in North Dakota needed lots of quilts), but I’ve never gone beyond that. I still think I need to.
    I kind of wrote about self-sufficiency a month or so ago. It’s a little political but you might like it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Joe. Thanks for stopping by! I tried quilting several years ago, but it seemed that it just would not end 🙂 I used to do a lot of other sewing too, but not so much lately. I’ve actually taken up knitting scarves these days, when I can 🙂
      I will certainly check out your post and your blog, too!


  2. Wow. Way to go for a place in the heart of a home cook! To the person whose mum taught them to cook so no woman can take advantage of them – I’m trying to do the same for my son. You’ve given me hope it could work yet.


  3. Guilty…I’m one of those people who, up until recently at least, almost always got take-out. I hardly ever did any dishes, because I ate from plastic. And the stupid thing is I really like cooking. It’s just that where I live take-out was cheaper:S


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