I believe that everyone, men and women, should learn how to cook the most basic meals, starting right in elementary school, with some assistance from Mom or Dad. I believe cooking is an important life skill, because without cooking, people will be very limited in the types of food that they can consume safely. Below, I will give my reasons on the importance of cooking.
1. Knowledge of where your food comes from
Buying prepared foods makes you recognize food as a whole dish rather than as a conglomeration of different ingredients. If you view prepared food as a conglomeration of different ingredients, then you would find the simplest way to replicate the dish, which involves making food with affordable, key ingredients. If you are going to eat the food as soon as it is prepared, then you do not need to mix in food additives that preserve the appearance, smell, and taste of the product or ingredients that disagree with your ethical beliefs (non-Kosher, non-Halal, non-vegetarian, non-vegan).
2. Basic math skills
You do not have to measure things out exactly. Usually, eyeballing the proportions of the ingredients is good enough. You can always adjust the proportions of the ingredients to fit the number of servings you need to minimize wastage and maximize efficiency. The math skills involved in the cooking process are at an elementary school level, so cooking is a great way to maintain the foundational knowledge.
3. No more uncooked foods
If you know some cooking skills, then you don't have to eat uncooked foods. Speaking of eating uncooked foods, some people believe in a "raw food" diet. They may eat vegetables, fruits, legumes, meats, grains, and unpasteurized milk. Personally, I believe there is a level of unhealthfulness in the "raw food" diet. First of all, some raw plants have an extremely bitter or pungent taste. The cooking process dulls the taste, making the plants more palatable and digestible. Second of all, legumes may have a very hard, indigestible shell. One step in food processing is to de-shell the legumes. Thirdly, grains are too indigestible to be eaten raw.
Fourth, it is possible to eat raw meat (such as sushi), but like vegetables, the cooking process helps make the meat more digestible and palatable. Fifth, pasteurization is a form of food processing or cooking. Basically, the milk is heated at very high temperatures in order to kill the unwanted germs. Drinking unpasteurized milk (or unpasteurized freshly squeezed fruit juices) is unhealthful and dangerous. Sixth, plants are not energy-dense materials. They are typically packed with nutrients, but they are low in calories. Eating low in calories may help you lose weight, if that is your goal, but if your goal is to maintain a steady body weight or gain lean weight (muscle), then you have to eat calorie-dense food products.
If you buy a dozen of large eggs (about 24 ounces), then you are really buying 936 calories worth of food (assuming the eggs are hard-boiled), and all those calories in fat and protein will be absorbed, because eggs have no fiber. If you buy one pack of firm tofu (about 12 ounces), then you are really buying 238 calories. Buying 2 packs of tofu (24 ounces) yields 476 calories. Stir-frying the eggs or tofu will generate more calories because of an increased fat composition, but nevertheless, if you are counting calories and want to eat a surplus of energy for a strong, energetic body, then you must eat animal products, unless you are wealthy and can afford to purchase more tofu.
This does not mean you avoid plant products. It just means you use animal products in your diet to sustain your body weight to prevent starvation. With these reasons, I believe that proponents of the "raw food diet" either are crazy or have to make practical compromises to make rawfoodism a reality. Therefore, you should learn how to cook; it can save your life and help you live below your means.
4. Family and cultural traditions
Many families keep their own traditional recipes. Traditional recipes are passed down from generation to generation and may be recorded or remembered. Making the traditional dishes is a way of preserving traditional culture. Individuals may modify the traditional dishes to suit their own preferences, though.
5. Creative outlet for culinary geniuses
Cooking is an art. I believe that the best, most creative cooks are those who know how to make a delicious dish with any kind of ingredient in the refrigerator or pantry. If you know how to make a delicious dish with any kind of ingredient, then you don't have to buy luxurious ingredients all the time. You can just buy affordable/cheap ingredients to make gourmet dishes. Having the ability to do that and having people who are willing to pay for your food mean profit.
Then, the next step is to mechanize the cooking process, so that the human cook is replaced by a machine and can make hundreds, thousands, millions of products to serve countless customers. However, the negative consequences of the mechanization of cooking are that the cooking is no longer an art form, and that the quality of the food product is degraded as food additives must be added in to preserve the shelf life.