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What did you learn in Home Ec class?

Inspired by a comment on another thread, I'm curious about what great tips you learned in Home Ec class that have stuck with you through the years? (Or horrible tips, share the best AND the worst!)

I learned how to play Euchre, which, although not food-related of course, is still a valuable skill in its own right.

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

asked 5 months ago
48 answers 1247 views
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cv
added 5 months ago

Never took it. Learned a lot from mom though, naturally over many years, not over the course of a one-year class.

The most helpful lessons were probably helping her out with larger parties like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Getting my feet wet with event planning during childhood has been enormously helpful in my adult life as a cook/host.

Learned plenty from the school of hard knocks as well! ;o)

88afa98e fd9c 4e61 af72 03658638b6cb  eight ball 600px
cv
added 5 months ago

One practical class that I am still grateful for was typing.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 5 months ago

I so agree with the typing. I took it in High School and used it in college, but when home computers became the norm, I was amazed how the skill had stayed with me.

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Jackson Fust

Jackson is an Assistant Buyer for the Food52 Shop

added 5 months ago

I learned the importance of measurements & fractions! In class, when baking cookies, my group added too much sugar, which I thought could never be a bad thing, but they tasted like a true disaster.

Somehow not learning from that mistake, I then attempted to bake cookies at home to take into HomeEc class the next day. When reading the recipe, I interpreted "2 1/2 Cups Flour" to somehow mean 2 one-half cups flour (or 1 cup total). Needless to say, as soon as they hit the hot oven, the cookie batter started to melt, dripping all over the bottom of the oven and causing a brief fire. From this fire I learned that you should never use water to put out an oven fire, but that baking soda is good for smothering the flames!

84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo
Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

I was in home ec in the mid-1960s. Girls took home ec, boys took shop. I'm not sure I learned anything my mother hadn't already taught me, but I remember our projects pretty vividly. In cooking, we marched our way through cooking eggs--boiled, fried, scrambled, poached--and then we made muffins. I still remember making the well in the dried ingredients and stirring gently just until the wet ingredients were mixed. For sewing, I made a little purse and a linen bag that looking back on it, would be perfect for an iPad. The big project was a gored skirt. I googled it, and you can still learn how to make a gored skirt.

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BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

If I could have had Home Ec and Art for the entire school day, I would have gotten A+'s! My two favorite subjects to this day. Things I learned? Oh boy, there is so much! I shared the tip on toothpick cleaning the rubber on the fridge. You can also use them of course to test cakes in the oven, clean the strainer that you use for powdered sugar, make hors d'oeuvres, when anything gets clogged with small holes I use toothpicks. Always have a box or two in the pantry. We have a very intricate faucet and I use the toothpicks around the faucet edge. The are an invaluable tool for me.

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Maedl

Margie is a trusted home cook immersed in German foodways.

added 5 months ago

The most useless class I ever took was home ec. It was required, no way out. I should have taken shop--it would have been much more practical. The home ec teacher was a Betty Crocker short-cut cook book type of woman who put more effort into teasing her hair into a beehive in the morning than in teaching us anything useful. I remember our big project in the kitchen was making jello, which she was supposed to put in the refrigerator after we left class and the jello had cooled. She forgot to do her part, and then next day made us drink the still-liquid jello. We also learned how to knit a pot holder (sigh) and supposedly to sew a dress. I ripped out the seams so many times in the jumper I was trying to make that it fell apart after the second or third time I wore it. I hate knitting and sewing to this day.

On the other hand, I hung out in the kitchen with my mother and grand-mother, where I not only learned how to cook and bake, but also learned our family’s history.

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added 5 months ago

I weaseled my way out of home ec and took band instead, but my mother taught me a lot. Basic cooking and sewing were the big ones. She let me get dinner started every night when I was older and staying home by myself after school. I think that really helped me build my confidence as a young cook.

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sexyLAMBCHOPx

Chops is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

Don't remember, either trying to ditch the class or too high.

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added 5 months ago

LOL

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added 5 months ago

We learned the basics of cooking, sewing, cleaning, and nutrition. Most notable was the day we made funnel cakes! Oh and the day my mom, a professional baker, made me take in a jar of Clabber Girl baking powder as a hint to my teacher. Later Home Ec classes taught us useful stuff like how to read apartment listings, write checks, balance a checking account, make a budget. It was all very teenage eyerolling at the time, but I'm glad the classes were required now.

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Susan W

Susan W is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 5 months ago

Definitely weights and measures! My Greek Mom rarely cooked from recipes and my Greek Yia Gia never did. It was always "a pinch of this and that". The whole idea of weighing and measuring fascinated me to no end. I only remember cooking pancakes and trying to make a cover for my Dad's surfboard. Lol Not sure why I thought it needed one.

50e6ebd3 b4c9 4d51 bd5e 1163afa4ba06  2013wreath
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

So sad many didn't have sa good experience. Guess I was lucky to have an interesting and adventurous teacher. She'd share stories about college days and eating popcorn with milk for breakfast because she didn't have much money. She'd have theme meals for us to make from Italian to Mexican to German. We made and tried foods that we never had before. One girl made cannoli's from scratch using the pastry tubes. Her family was Italian and those were tradition. I remember frying tortillas into taco shells and we all made a dish and had a feast! She was a real cooking instructor that had enormous talent. I'm forever thankful for her dedication.

50e6ebd3 b4c9 4d51 bd5e 1163afa4ba06  2013wreath
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

The year was 1965. She was ahead of her time!

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sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 5 months ago

I had a great home ec teacher, she taught cooking and sewing and nutrition and even budget. I think I will never forget her, my final exam was to make a Barvarian Cream or Bavarois. Other than jello I had never used gelatin before so it was a real learning experience for me, I did well, got an A for a Bavarois with strawberry sauce. She was an excellent teacher so patient and really explained things well.

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creamtea

Lisanne is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

We learned how to make cinnamon toast. That's the only thing I remember.

84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo
Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

My daughter was in middle school when home ec had been renamed "Family and Consumer Science." Her year for cooking occurred during a building project. So they met in the gym, and their most complex lesson was making popcorn in the microwave.

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HalfPint

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added 5 months ago

I learned how to make pizza and sewed together a duffle. It was fun.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 5 months ago

We didn't have it until high school, and didn't take it because it wasn't on the college track curriculum. Besides, we had our own home ec "teacher" at home - Mom!

50e6ebd3 b4c9 4d51 bd5e 1163afa4ba06  2013wreath
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

There was a sewing class as well, taught by another teacher. That wasn't as much fun. I designed all my clothes in high school, sometimes designing and making two outfits a night. I was known for my clothes and designs so everyone, especially my mom, was surprised when the sewing teacher gave me a "D" on my report card because I didn't sew my hems the way she taught us! That was the only reason. I knew I was good, my friends new it and they even voiced their opinion to the teacher, didn't matter.

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aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added 5 months ago

I had Home Ec in the 70's - I remember making a "top" if you could call it that - a piece of fabric fitted like an armour breastplate with loops down both sides, that you then strung a long (sewn!) cord through so you trussed yourself in like a roast. Wore it with pride baby!

I also took shop. I remember hammering things. That is it.

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added 5 months ago

In the burbs in the early 60's? A boy in a home ec class just didn't happen, may even have been illegal. Fortunately, mom thought that people who were interested in eating should be interested in cooking.

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added 5 months ago

i was required to take it but would have preferred the shop classes or mechanical drawing. i learned most of the money matters/cooking/how to do housework and other subjects at home, and was a failure at sewing and hated cooking with dry eggs and powdered milk. BUT, i did learn how to fold fitted sheets so they laid flat. i still use this technique to this day.

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amysarah

amysarah is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

Girls were required to take home ec in my junior high (going back a few decades here.) In sewing, I managed to stitch my skirt's center seam all the way through, creating 2 tubes. I learned to use a seam ripper. In cooking, I learned nothing memorable - I'd grown up in my mother and grandmothers' kitchens, who were great cooks. All we did in class were dishes like jello salad with canned fruit cocktail (told you this was in the dark ages.)

But I did learn that adversity can create opportunity. I was implicated in a refrigerated cookie dough caper my friends engineered - okay, I did eat a little of it, but wasn't involved in the actual heist. I was at most an accessory after the fact. But my 'punishment' was a choice between detention and switching to shop with the boys, which I'd have much preferred in the first place. So the lesson was crime can pay off. I still have the apple shaped cutting board I made in that class. The tubular skirt is history.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added 5 months ago

wow, you just made me remember our own caper (i wasn't involved i don't think) where the chocolate chips for toll house cookies went missing.

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added 5 months ago

Memories of my Home Ec teacher Sr. Bernardine are still fresh 30+ years later, we learned how to make Salty Crackers and sugar cookies. Other than the unfortunate choice of using hydrogenated vegetable shortening, (It was the 80's after all) , it did spark a lifelong interest inall things culinary

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added 5 months ago

I learned how to sew by hand and how to cook a few basic dishes. I was in high school so of course, I was most excited about the cookie recipes!

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added 5 months ago

I only took home ec in middle school. We had the most basic class ever. I remember baking a lot of cookies, a tuna casserole, some cinnamon rolls made from canned biscuits (yuck) and I sewed a pair of shorts! lol! That's all I can really remember. I don't remember any tips but at least I know how you thread a sewing machine!

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added 5 months ago

A lot of recipes my teacher seemed to pull right out of the '50s - none of them good! But seriously, there was a strange amount of gelatin and upside-down cakes made in the microwave considering this was in the mid to late 2000s.

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added 5 months ago

It's why I became a psychologist!
I didn't take the traditional HomeEc class; I learned all my cooking and baking from my grandmother, who had run a bakery and restaurant while raising her family.
But senior year of High School I took the Psychology elective, which was taught by the Home Ec teacher (?!). Odd, but she was a great teacher and I caught the bug!

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added 5 months ago

In cooking class I learned to make cheese sauce (bechamel + cheese) which is a good basic skill, but that's all I remember making. We learned about the food pyramid, and at the time, they classified a potato as a vegetable, which I guess technically it is, but to my mind it was a starch, so I got that question wrong...But who would serve a potato as the vegie course of a meal?? Made no sense to me...
In sewing we made a smock top. I changed schools & took wood shop, which I also enjoyed, made a book rack, which I think my mom still has, and we made comforters in sewing class. I also cooked some at home, we made homemade cookies all the time, and I had a Betty Crocker Boys & Girls cookbook

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added 5 months ago

I learned that I was a better cook than a seamstress. I did learn a lot about fabrics, and fitting but more importantly knew I cared more about food and feeding people than about fashion or even dressing myself well. 45 years later that is still true, for better or for worse. I also went on to become a foods and nutrition major in the school of home economics and even in the 1970's learned that food issues were political.

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added 5 months ago

not much. we took frozen foods out of large boxes and 'cooked' them (I mainly remember lots and lots of gigantic, frozen cookies). we did also learn how to make a roux, which I enjoyed. so much butter involved! this must have been in 2005.

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AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added 5 months ago

I could have taught my 7th grade home ec class better than the teacher. The whole thing was so lame, but it was mandatory, so I couldn't avoid it.
What I learned was that (a) my mother had taught me so many skills, even when I was 11, that other mothers had not taught my classmates (for which I'm still eternally grateful) and (b) how to use time "wisely" in easy classes - I did the homework for my other classes during the down-time in home ec, which was most of it, leaving more time after school to do things that were a lot more fun and interesting than homework.
I also learned what a cake made from a mix tastes like. I'd never had one before. I agreed with my father, who'd also tasted cake from a mix years before and described it as tasting "like yesterday's Wall Street Journal." ;o)

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added 5 months ago

I did not learn anything in Home Ec that I didn't already know. I had learned about cooking and weights and measures from my grandmother and dad, and I took an evening sewing class sponsored by Singer when I was 10. I do remember that our sewing project was an apron, and we experimented with soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs. There may have been a class on heating up scrapple - we lived in North Country PA Dutch land.

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added 5 months ago

My middle school home ec curriculum included childcare and babysitting. We learned more than haw to change diapers... we also learned some fundamental business skills like charging double on holidays. I guess that was the ec part of the class!

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added 5 months ago

I transferred from a very gloomy Catholic prep school to the public school in my town. I never even knew Home Ec existed until then.
I opted to take cooking instead of study hall and I loved it. Our teacher was young and sophisticated and very open to us exploring different foods. We had a subsidized program that gave students a subscription to the New York Times. We picked recipes from the food section and then created events to serve them. We would make fancy or ethnic luncheons for the teachers. I remember making Linzer Torte and Oeffs ala Neige.
I also learned all of the cooking terms and methods.
My mother was a great cook with a large family to feed and wasn't keen on having us in the kitchen and I really wanted to cook! After I took this class she was pleased with what I could do and by my senior year we were doing informal catering for the holidays.
I owe my confidence in the kitchen to my HS HomeEc teacher, Diane Faulkner.

34919778 d751 4755 b21f 2f170d3f9dca  fb avatar
added 5 months ago

I transferred from a very gloomy Catholic prep school to the public school in my town. I never even knew Home Ec existed until then. This was 1967.
I opted to take cooking instead of study hall and I loved it. Our teacher was young and sophisticated and very open to us exploring different foods. We had a subsidized program that gave students a subscription to the New York Times. We picked recipes from the food section and then created events to serve them. We would make fancy or ethnic luncheons for the teachers. I remember making Linzer Torte and Oeffs ala Neige.
I also learned all of the cooking terms and methods.
My mother was a great cook with a large family to feed and wasn't keen on having us in the kitchen and I really wanted to cook! After I took this class she was pleased with what I could do and by my senior year we were doing informal catering for the holidays.
I owe my confidence in the kitchen to my HS HomeEc teacher, Diane Faulkner.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added 5 months ago

I wanted to take two languages (French and Latin), but my public school in NJ would not let me, so I took a year of cooking. Loved it. What I remember most is learning to make yeast bread, yeast pretzels, etc. After that my mother deputized me to make sweet rolls, which I did weekly for years and years. Just to finish the story--I taught myself Latin. I continue to use both my training in classical language and my breadbaking skills. Can't imagine living without either.

50e6ebd3 b4c9 4d51 bd5e 1163afa4ba06  2013wreath
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

I recall the first thing we learned how to make in junior high cooking class were different salad dressings from scratch (I still use many of them today) and all sorts of biscuits. In high school we did many themed ethnic meals with the Italian and Mexican cuisine being my favorites. We learned many valuable techniques and ate well!

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

I remember learning the most basic things in junior high-- scrambled eggs, for instance. Also making peanut butter cookies, some of which we froze to eat later with our home made hot chocolate. In sewing, I did quite a poor job of sewing a lime green cotton skirt with a set in waistband. I kept having to re do the hem to make it even and it eventually turned into a micro mini. I'm not sure that I ever wore it. We also learned about make up, what to wear and what not to wear... that's all I remember. My mom and dad taught me all about food and how to prepare and enjoy it.

8bbce907 3b5e 4c8c be5c c64e6c780d63  birthday 2012
luvcookbooks

Meg is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

I remember learning the most basic things in junior high-- scrambled eggs, for instance. Also making peanut butter cookies, some of which we froze to eat later with our home made hot chocolate. In sewing, I did quite a poor job of sewing a lime green cotton skirt with a set in waistband. I kept having to re do the hem to make it even and it eventually turned into a micro mini. I'm not sure that I ever wore it. We also learned about make up, what to wear and what not to wear... that's all I remember. My mom and dad taught me all about food and how to prepare and enjoy it.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

Almost nothing. There were 2 practical courses (required by NY state) in middle school, home ec for girls and shop for boys. Being a required one-shot deal didn't get them any respect, nor a good curriculum or teacher.
I remember vividly having to finish a dress I wouldn't wear (like memorizing stuff for an exam in a course you don't like...it must be finished, then I can forget it all). On cooking, I learned more from my Mother, and campfire cooking at overnight camp and in Girl Scouts.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
Nancy

Nancy is a trusted home cook.

added 5 months ago

Forgot to mention, the name "home economics" itself sounds cold, something engineered, retrofit, possibly condescending about it. As if to reassure women that they were doing something serious, like (unmodified) economics. Or to make the home into an efficient factory, like the early 20c efficiency expert Frank Gilbreth in Cheaper by the Dozen (a family bio by one of his children).
And though recent names liked FCS (family and consumer studies) or human ecology (what Cornell renamed their very fine home ec school) were chosen to sound more comprehensive or lofty, they still have that "fake serious" or "fake scientific" note.
This isn't LIndsay-Jean's question, I know, but a tangent...

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added 5 months ago

I learned to always, always, read the recipe ahead of preparation. My group was making challah, and we accidentally added the egg (needed just for the egg wash at the end) to the dough. It turned out horribly: a sticky, eggy, mess. From that lesson, I also learned how to write a recipe.

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added 5 months ago

is this offered anymore?

50e6ebd3 b4c9 4d51 bd5e 1163afa4ba06  2013wreath
BerryBaby

BerryBaby is trusted source on General Cooking

added 5 months ago

It depends on your school district. Many have cut out a lot of subjects that we had back in the 60's and even today. It's a shame, but money only goes so far these days.

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added 5 months ago

We cooked funnel cake in my home ec class one day and it is the only thing I remember about the class. I remember being astounded at how easy it was and thinking I could easily make it all the time at home (I have not made it once)!