In early 2005, I took a high school Foods & Nutrition class to fill a gap in my schedule. Seventeen years later, I’m still processing it.
The name “Foods & Nutrition” was appropriately two-faced, as the class split the difference between teaching us how to cook satisfying meals and how to process the guilt of actually eating them. This was, after all, the nadir of the celebrity tabloid era, when images of stars who had tragically “let themselves go” were as common as lists of pointers for “how to look like you lost 5 pounds in one day” (they really and truly recommended that teen girls take anti-gas pills to look leaner). The syllabus reflected the bipolar attitudes of the day, condemning and reifying toxic attitudes around food in equal measure.
There’s no rhyme or reason to which lessons are still vivid in my mind all these years later; I think anything particularly humiliating or revelatory was bound to stick around. Yes, revelatory—because some of the lessons were genuinely valuable, and I apply them to my cooking to this day. Here’s what I really learned in Foods & Nutrition class, from the useless to the useful.