SORTEDfood team

The Sortedfood team has two million followers under the age of 35

Latest research from the Co-op has shed light on what’s going on behind closed doors in the nation’s kitchens.

Apparently we cook half as many meals as we did 30 years ago and go out to eat or grab food on the go instead.

Among millennials, more than one in four are not interested in learning how to cook and 28% of those who can’t cook don’t see why they should learn. And almost a third only have a limited repertoire of dishes, with the majority blaming lack of teaching at school for their shortcomings.

For about one in six, cooking is just a ‘means to an end’ rather than something they choose to do. And while more than half do enjoy experimenting with dishes, their lack of knowledge of ingredients and how flavours work together are rated as the two biggest skills gaps for millennials.

So, the Co-op is going to tackle the problem. It’s teaming up with online cookery channel Sortedfood, which claims to be able to reach two million 18 to 35-year-olds with its recipes and cooking demonstrations.

The partners haven’t been specific about what they plan to do yet, but it will probably be online and involve filming, and perhaps Jonny Mitchell – the headteacher in the 2013 Channel 4 documentary Educating Yorkshire who is now principal of The Co-operative Academy Leeds.

Whatever they do, it will mix the new (Sortedfood started in 2010) and the old (the first cookery demonstration ever filmed was by the Co-op in 1955 and co-operatives set out to help teach members and their children in the 1850s, two decades before state provision of education was a legal requirement).

As interesting as it will be to see what’s cooking, the Co-op’s findings about our present-day kitchen habits are not surprising.

Who, after all, has much time to cook a tasty casserole or a tray of carefully crafted bread rolls when we are all working harder and longer to pay for our homes, cars, foreign holidays and regular short breaks?

Likewise, we are being encouraged to get out and work as much as possible to pay for longer-lasting pensions as well as contribute to tax revenues as our politicians pursue an ever-growing economy.

And where women traditionally stayed at home to prepare meals and bake for the family, they too no longer feel empowered by such work, and are seeking more fulfilment out of the home.

Certainly, food retailers and suppliers are not free of responsibility for the diminishing interest in creating meals from scratch. In fact, you could say they are encouraging us to cook less by continually increasing the new variants of ready meals we see all about us.

So, is it any wonder we’re losing the ability to cook from scratch, combine ingredients and tweak them with subtle additions like oregano or dill, never mind a sprinkling of cumin or paprika? And do we need to bother to fry onions, brown meat before we put it in the oven, or peel and chop vegetables when someone else has already done it for us in an oven/microwave-ready container?

Yes, because fresh is best, we are told. And for most of us, cooking from scratch will usually involve less salt, sugar, fat and preservatives, not to mention packaging. And it can be creative, relaxing and satisfying to take time out from stressful lives to cook a well-balanced meal.

Ready meals are not going to go away. They are a necessity for many and they have their place in most of our lives. But if retailers, with the benefit of social media, can encourage us to cook from scratch, chopping the odd courgette, pepper, radish or fresh cabbage a bit more often, then not only will they maintain their sales, but farmers, food producers and the countryside will be supported and the nation’s health will most likely benefit.