Toops Scoops: Ignorance is not bliss

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Ignorance is not bliss

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Betty Crocker survey finds personal satisfaction, family bonding by knowing how to cook.

Sharpening cooking skills and involving kids in cooking family meals can build a sense of personal pride and strengthen family bonds, according to General Mills' 2004 Betty Crocker Kitchens' "How America Cooks" study of some 1,500 adults and 1,000 kids ages 10-17. Knowledge of the basics, however, is a determining factor in how frequently families eat meals together.

It's notable that the study found 71 percent of adults say they both enjoy and get personal satisfaction from cooking, and that nearly 90 percent of kids ages 10,17 feel proud when they cook something.

Even though both adults and kids enjoy cooking, they could improve their knowledge of kitchen basics. According to the study, 70 percent of adults rated themselves "above average" in cooking knowledge, but only 38 percent scored "above average" on a 20-question cooking skills quiz. On the plus side, 98 percent know the abbreviation for teaspoon, 98 percent know the correct placement of pot and pan handles on the stovetop, and 89 percent know proper marinade technique safety.

On the other hand, only 53 percent know how many cups a stick of butter is equal to, only 49 percent know the FDA-recommended daily caloric intake for adults and only 34 percent know how much uncooked rice is needed to yield one cup of cooked rice. Ignorance is not bliss, however, because seven out of 10 adults want to learn more about cooking because they enjoy it and want more variety in what they eat.

Age and gender emerged as the biggest determinants of cooking aptitude in the survey. More knowledgeable respondents tend to be women 35 and older (particularly empty nesters and those 65 and older), who were taught to cook by their mothers. The least knowledgeable cooks fall in the 18-24 age group, are male and did not have the benefit of mom's cooking tips.

Of the 85 percent of adults who claim to do at least half of the meal preparation, 49 percent are women, but a surprising 43 percent of men are donning their toque and they are more likely to think of meal preparation as a pleasant experience.

Both men and women are confident preparing scrambled eggs, frozen pizza, spaghetti dinner with jarred sauce, baked potatoes and tossed green salad, but they are nervous about baking yeast breads or making cheesecake, an apple pie or gravy from scratch.

As one would expect, 94 percent of kids can access the Internet, 54 percent can program a VCR and 51 can download music from the Internet, but only 45 percent can make a baked potato, 42 percent can cook a spaghetti dinner and almost 60 percent do not know that there are three teaspoons in a tablespoon.

But when it comes to family mealtime and togetherness, 70 percent of kids are willing to do some of the cooking if it would help their families eat together more often, and a whopping 94 percent like it when the whole family eats together.

So does Betty Cocker. With a little help from her friends, she encourages more relaxed family mealtimes by testing more than 50,000 recipes each year and sharing them and cooking advice on BettyCrocker.com.

***CHART***

Preparation of dinner in my household is typically like Women Men

Reading a good book , relaxing 23% 30%

Running late to catch a plane , rushed and nerve-wracking 19 17

Listening to the philharmonic symphony orchestra , well orchestrated and organized 14 17

Creating a masterpiece , a work of art 9 13

Going to the dentist , something I dread 14 6

Being at Grand Central Station , crazy 11 9

Running a marathon , takes forever 6 5

Getting a bad haircut , takes a while to recover 3 4

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