How to boil an egg

Cookery lessons are to become compulsory in schools, it was announced this week. An hour of cookery each week, for a term, is supposed to help reduce childhood obesity. I had a term of cookery lessons at school when I was 13. It put me off cooking for years. The high point was a week off school with the runs after eating one of my creations. I doubt this is the weight loss the government had in mind.

My mother cooked for us at home, unenthusiastically but competently. She wasn’t endlessly baking, pastry-making, preserving… but she usually cooked from scratch, and convenience food was just that. So I had plenty of opportunity to learn by observation. Her endless, desperate variation on ‘leftover nosh’ was an education in the art of the improbable.

Our cookery classes were dull, worthy and under-seasoned. I have vague recollections of making a bland chicken liver pâté, but no one believes me and I wonder if it was just a dream. Anything went pre-Edwina, but it seems unlikely in these squeamish, antibacterial days. Chickens – aren’t they full of salmonella? Offal? How awful.

The only three recipes I remember making were cauliflower cheese, pizza, and apple crumble. Although it was hard to go wrong with crumble, the other two were grave disappointments.

The cauliflower cheese had to be made with Edam, as it was lower in fat than Cheddar (school policy). I suppose there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be made with Edam, except that it’s much nicer with Cheddar. Mum astutely pointed out the other reason we had to use Edam: it’s cheaper than Cheddar. But what a compromise. Good lord, if I was worried about fat, I wouldn’t be making cauliflower cheese in the first place.

The pizza lesson split the class in four: half used a bread dough, the rest scone base; and each half was split between white flour and wholemeal. I drew the short straw, with the wholemeal scone-based recipe. The point of the experiment is lost on me now, as it was then, but I vividly remember resenting the waste an afternoon making something that I knew was going to taste disgusting.

I resented it even more when the class marks were awarded solely on the basis of the presentation of the pizza topping. The teacher didn’t taste a single one of them. She knew, you see.

The result? Thirty teenage girls learn that ‘healthy’ food doesn’t taste as good. If the government thinks cookery lessons will improve the diets of school children, then good luck to it.

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~ by jobes on January 23, 2008.

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