I’m the type to learn a valuable lesson

EVEN though I say it myself, I am a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen. Nothing too fancy, you understand, but I m your man when it comes to a Sunday dinner. My roast potatoes in particular have been commented on favourably by my family. Par excellence has

EVEN though I say it myself, I am a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen.

Nothing too fancy, you understand, but I'm your man when it comes to a Sunday dinner.

My roast potatoes in particular have been commented on favourably by my family. Par excellence has been the phrase used - or was it Pa, excellent? Whichever, I take all compliments with a gracious smile if not a pinch of salt.

Culinary skills came late to me. When I was a teenager, knocking up a banana and sugar sandwich was just about all I could manage. Eggs cracked when I attempted to boil them and toast burnt.


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But very belatedly my interest in cookery grew along with my family.

Curries are created effortlessly now, my spaghetti Bolognese would delight an Italian.

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Quietly proud as I am of what I can produce using pots, pans and a stove, I wonder how much better it would be if I had started earlier.

What prompted this thought was the Government announcement this week that from 2011, for the first time ever, every 11 to 14-year-old will do compulsory practical cooking lessons.

For those schools - the vast majority in fact - who already have the facilities in place and offer food technology classes, these compulsory sessions will begin in September.

Back in the '60s, there was a sharp divide between what boys and girls did at school.

There was the mysterious domestic science department into which the girls disappeared through what looked like the front door of a typical home to learn about housework in the setting of a living room.

They had regular cooking lessons - I well remember my sister bringing home the results. Some of it was quite palatable.

For us boys, woodwork was on the menu for the first year at secondary school. Then we went on to metalwork - the blacksmithing element of it was good fun - and there was technical drawing which was fine if you intended to become an architect or draughtsman but deadly boring otherwise.

Thus they attempted to equip us for our adult lives ahead.

It was by pure chance that I learned something at school which was really useful for my working life.

My class had a free one-hour period in its timetable one year and, being a disruptive lot, we were not trusted to spend it largely unsupervised in the library.

They gave us an option. I can't remember now what one of the choices was but the other one, which we voted to do as the lesser of two evils, was learning to type.

The clattering of around 30 ancient Underwood typewriters and the tinkling of the bells as the carriageways got towards the end of their runs made a fine noise.

I really took to typing, so much so that my parents bought me a portable typewriter for Christmas and I spent many a happy hour on it.

Little did I know then that this newly acquired skill would prove to be so handy when it came to getting a job.

My first editor was much impressed when the gawky youth looking for employment was able to demonstrate that touch typing was a doddle.

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