At the grass roots level, we can make a big difference, but if the level of disconnect between the top levels of the organization and the troops continues, I fear Girl Scouts will see even greater decline in the next few years. One good thing is that GSUSA is a lot more inclusive than some other scouting organizations (what sort of kids organization in the 21st Century excludes kids simply because they don't believe in a god?), but I really feel that GSUSA needs to get away from bureaucracy and making the girls jump through ridiculous hoops to get a simple cooking badge. I mean, "New Cuisines" is THE cooking badge for Cadettes, and it requires:
1a. Cook something from an area of the world you're curious about. Okay, sounds good so far. My daughter could make pasta, or an Indian curry.
1b. Find a relative, friend or neighbor who is an immigrant... Surely it's a cooking badge, not a cultural diversity badge. Let's keep it real!
2a. Put together a meal based on a food related news story. Why does it need to even get this complicated?
2b. Or research and cook a regional specialty that's become a cultural phenomenon.
2c. Visit the local history center or library, or ask an elderly community member, for a recipe...
And it goes on like this. That's just two of the 5 steps, all of which have three ridiculous options, including cooking a meal based in history, cooking a meal that "makes a statement" (whatever that means) and hosting a party that includes up to 4 meals. Some restaurants don't do as much research over their entire menu as Girl Scouts are required to go to to get a simple cooking badge. Why not simply make the requirement that she makes three different dishes? It's cooking - it shouldn't be rocket science or the equivalent of mounting an expedition to Everest.
I think we need to get back to the scouting basics of adventure, learning and FUN - and we need to keep it simple.
You know, it's funny - someone recently had the same complaint about the BSA's cooking merit badge and how complicated it's become, even up to the point of asking why we need to have some first aid skills and why we need to bother with nutritional information in the merit badge requirements.
I just can't understand why folks think these kinds of requirements are problematic or difficult I look at them and thiknk "wow - why couldn't someone have thought of these when I was a Scout.
1a. Cook something from an area of the world you're curious about. Okay, sounds good so far. My daughter could make pasta, or an Indian curry...I'm interested in Iceland - now granted, it might be difficult to find puffin or fermented shark, but I surely could find something from Iceland that I could cook here.
1b. Find a relative, friend or neighbor who is an immigrant... Surely it's a cooking badge, not a cultural diversity badge. Let's keep it real! I don't know how that requirement ends but I suspect it has something to do with learning about how different foods are here than from back home. No matter how it might end, it sounds like a really good lesson in how immigrants have come to this country and have changed our foodways - both in the past and in the present. Maybe folks in rural US haven't started eating food from Thailand but a lot of people in Urban areas have and eat it regularly.
2a. Put together a meal based on a food related news story. Why does it need to even get this complicated? How is this complicated? There are food related stories in the media all the time these days - is Gluten Free things being reported in your area? Plan a gluten-free meal. was kale being reported on? Plan a dish around kale.
2b. Or research and cook a regional specialty that's become a cultural phenomenon. I don't see any time limitations on this and the internet is full of stories about regional specialties. If it were me, I'd cook an old-fashioned buttermilk fried chicken recipe - a regional specialty that has become, thanks to a certain Kentucky Colonel, a genuine cultural phenomenon. Or how about pulled pork? or bratwurst? What's wrong with learning about regional foods?
2c. Visit the local history center or library, or ask an elderly community member, for a recipe... Again, what's wrong with this? Libraries are full of cookbooks. An awful lot of local historical societies have published recipe books. And elderly community members are a great resource for all kinds of things - I think asking someone for their favorite recipe would be a really cool thing to do.