Friday, 26 October 2018

Ready-Prepared?

Let me say at the outset, that I am not a trained cook or even an enthusiastic cook.  I do, however, cook.   My enthusiasm is saved for baking and only comes to the fore when I am in the right mood, exploring a theme, or have nothing better to do.

Almost 45 years of marriage and three children have diminished the fun of getting three meals a day together.    I cook all our meals from scratch, not because I am a saint, but simply because they taste better, the textures are as they should be and, most importantly, I know what has gone into them.

Ready meals, ready-prepared foods, no matter how high class the shop, or fancy the packaging, are made to be profitable in a highly competitive market.    They contain additives, to extend the shelf life and lower the cost. 

When I bake, I use butter, sugar, flour and so on, basic ingredients, I do not use hydrogenated oils or emulsifiers, or palm oil.

I can feel myself going way off tack here.  Focus, Elaine!

The point is, I can cook and I do cook.    I know how to cook.   The basics I learned from my mother, the rest I learned as I went along through life.   

These days there seem to be a lot of people who haven't been educated to identify good food, and even if they have, they don't feel they have the time to cook - or, more probably, don't know how to cook.   

I understand that it is much more difficult, for people on their own, to get motivated to cook a decent meal each day.   When all my children had either moved out, or were away at university, my husband was away working abroad, I had to do the same.    I could quite happily have settled for a slice of (homemade) bread and a piece of cheese, with an apple for pudding...actually, I still could. 

It is the don't know how to group which concerns me the most.     Children are growing up in homes where takeaways and ready meals, oven chips and cheap burgers or pizzas are the norm.  Vegetables and fruit are a mystery to them.

This is certainly true of some of the children in my daughter's class.   She recently moved schools, and has begun teaching in a very low income/deprived part of Lincolnshire.   The children in her class are the new intakes, the very youngest ones in the school.    She was determined to introduce them to good food, teach them some of the basics of cooking and baking - these are children of just 5 years of age.

Of course, these days, this involves a lot of permission forms, risk assessments, and so on.    Then she set about her first lesson, a very gentle introduction which she hoped would get the children's interest, chocolate biscuits.    Not necessarily healthy, but definitely designed to make them happy.

The children had a wonderful time, the biscuits turned out brilliantly, they learned a lot about measuring and mixing, baking and waiting.    The most interesting thing to me, though, was the reaction of her teaching assistant.    She got into a blind panic.    She can't cook, can't bake.      My daughter is 40 years old, her teaching assistant is heading towards 50 years of age, married and has had a family of her own.

The second lesson was vegetable soup.   This meant that they had to peel vegetables and help to cut them up - terrifying thought - but the soup was made and some of the children learned, for the first time, that onions make you cry.   Many of them had never seen a vegetable being prepared, ever.   Again, lots of teaching opportunities.      The children all tried the soup and, apart from one or two, they LOVED it.   It was something new to them.

Remember, these children are from very low income households, often with other problems going on in the background.    They are country children but most didn't know where vegetables came from.      These lessons have become the highlight of the week for them.

We can only hope the lessons and skills they are learning will be lodged in their memory banks and serve them well later in life.
 
You never know, even the teaching assistant may one day find that she is able to cook a meal.



ps  I have to smile, my daughter doesn't cook at home.   She has a husband to do that!




33 comments:

  1. rural poverty is a subject mostly ignored , you can be surrounded by food growing yet not have a shop of any description for miles , you have to keep and maintain a vehicle theres not a trace of public transport , supermarket deliveries are a bit hit and miss the list goes on and on.

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    1. Exactly, Kate. This is why my daughter was keen to work there. Her previous school was in a deprived area, but this is worse. I should say that the village does have Chinese, Indian and Italian take-aways, plus a Fish and Chip shop - oh, and a pub.

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  2. Well done to your daughter. I cook from scratch for the same reasons you do.

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    1. She (like so many others) really cares about the children she teaches, Susan.

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  3. It's so sad there's generations unable to cook. Well done to your daughter for introducing it in that area.

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    1. I bet they all know how to use a takeaway though!

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  4. Funny we were discussing this yesterday in the car as we passed through one of the more run down areas on the way to town where nearly every shop is now a takeaway and a takeaway with no one in it as I presume everyone has them sent round now they don't even have to visit the shop. It has been on the news that our high streets are covered in fast food shops so what are our 'town planners' doing we rely on them to make good judgements about planning but it seems more and more places here are being allowed to convert to fast food use.
    Most of our meals are cooked from scratch the vegetarian ready meals in supermarkets are terrible - mostly soya substitutes for meat now - we sometimes have a pizza as a standby or the Sainsbury's Nutcutlets but that is about all as like you I find the texture and taste of ready meals nothing like homemade.
    I taught my own two girls how to cook - every summer holiday we would reserve one or two days each week to make something like vegetable soup, a pie, or some baking. They had great fun and now are able to cook healthy meals for themselves. My granddaughter has been able to bake from the time she could stand up.
    Cooking in the secondary schools is now a joke - taking ready roll pastry or a packet of crumble mix and a bought jar of apple sauce to make apple crumble - I ask you - well done to your daughter.

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    1. Crumble mix and apples from a jar - that's awful, but at least they had to use an oven, or did they have to take it home to bake it?
      It is a shame that so many are growing up without absorbing the basic cooking skills or having memories of their home having been filled with the smells of baking and cooking. I don't suppose that children now have the old squabbles about who's turn it is to set the table, etc, because so many don't sit around tables to eat any more.

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  5. Your daughter may not cook at home but at least she knows how to. It's unbelievable that a woman in her 50's can't cook. I agree that cookery lessons at school are a joke. They need to get back to basics, such as white sauce that can be changed into so many different things (parsley sauce, macaroni cheese etc). Take away's or ready meals every night is just an excuse for laziness.

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    1. Hello Eleanor, and welcome! I was shocked when I heard about the TA, but then I remembered my aunt. She was excellent at washing salad things, but didn't cook. Fortunately, my uncle could cook, and did cook, when he wasn't working away. They didn't have any children so it only impacted the two of them. My mother, her sister, was an excellent cook, learned a lot from both her parents. One daughter absorbed the lessons, the other one wasn't interested. My aunt died a few years ago, she was in her 90's! My daughter is an excellent cook, her husband really enjoys cooking, so she lets him.

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  6. I fear that it is laziness or ignorance. Cooking from scratch is cheaper than buying ready meals. I always prepared meals even when I worked full time. But then I'm perfect!

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    1. A mixture of the two, perhaps. A while back I read in one of my old (around 1900-1910) books that one of the problems of the time was the decline in home cooking and the detrimental effect it was having on the health of the nation, of course I can't remember which book it was in!

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  7. As another rural Lincolnshire dweller, what depresses me is the number of takeaway outlets. Even our little town (population less then 3000) has two chippies, two Indian takeaways, a pizza and kebab place and a Chinese takeaway. Add to that the cafes which do takeaways and the ready meals available in the Co-op and I can only think that very few people are cooking for themselves.

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    1. My older son lives in London, so there are lots of takeaways just around the corner, or just a phone call away. They used to use them, a lot. Now that they have children the old cooking skills are put to use, thank goodness. Your little town sounds like a mini London, with that many outlets! Shocking.

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  8. A woman after my own heart. This is a subject I have been on about for such a long time, I cook and experiment and use alternative ingredients due to intolerances/allergies, I have always done this, especially as the children arrived and had those needs too. As you say, you know exactly what has gone into the dish without additives. When something makes you ill you have to avoid it. I always encouraged my two into the kitchen and they are both proficient cooks, but what about the others, so many of Rebecca´s friends just don´t know which end is up. I really enjoyed domenstic science in school, I believe the trouble started when they abolished that lesson. In her last year at school Rebecca began making muffins, took them to school to sell and made quite a bit, giving her much needed pocket money and learning a great lesson in the mean time. Hats off to your daughter, its not just the cooking it´s all the maths, science etc etc that goes with it, oh and the fun!. xcx

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    1. It sounds as though you have done a fine job with your children, Chrissie. One school I attended went so far as to have a little 'apartment' which was used for teaching the housework side of things. The cookery side was dealt with by a 'dragon' who seemed mean at the time, yet I often think of her when I am cooking, remembering her excellent tuition! The little ones my daughter teaches won't realise just how much they are being taught, but one day in the future they may join the dots and remember her, as they begin to cook from scratch!

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  9. Hearty clapping, for everything in this post!!!

    All pre-packaged... You just don't know what is in it. Said, though we still use some items. But read the labels. That helps weed out the worst.

    Bake with flour, butter, eggs, sugar, etc. Yesssssss!!!!!! Olive oil when necessary. None of the *Monsanto Frankenstein* Oils.

    When grocery shopping, ask one question... "Would Great-Grandmother recognize this, as food?" That is a big help. ,-)

    Wonderful, what your daughter is doing!!!!!! A ray of light, in the darkness.

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    1. She puts her heart and soul into teaching, it is not simply her job. My Great Grandmother would probably be horrified at some of the things I cook, Luna, many of my meals are based around brown rice and vegetables, but yes, I do agree with you. Good, wholesome, ingredients are a good starting point - that, and remembering to take my specs when I go shopping. ;)

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  10. My 43 year old daughter teaches in a gifted and talented program. Her school district is very diverse, low income, urban... Her kids have a garden outside their classrooms. They cook, eat and take home the products from this garden and even the fussiest of eaters enjoy this!!
    My grandson is 12 and in the 7th grade. He chose to take a 2nd cooking class this year and is really enjoying it! Often he wants to cook dinner. I made his uncle ( now deceased) an apron and chef's hat which my grandson wears when cooking! His uncle cooked and he wants to be like his uncle! His elder sister is 16 and also likes to cook!!No worried for this Granny on whether they will be able to take care of themselves when out in the world!!

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    1. Hello Bettina, That sounds like a wonderful arrangement! Lucky children, they may not have money in the background, but their education and learning opportunities sound spot on.
      It seems as though your grandchildren are well able to hold their own in the kitchen. I imagine that the chef's hat is very special, perhaps it adds the magic of love, and memory, to your grandson's cooking exploits.

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  11. Coming from a deprived area in Lincolnshire I know what you mean. I worked in the local nursery and try to introduce a different fruit each week. Even an apple was unknown to some of these young children, so sad.

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    1. That is a very sobering thought, goodness knows what all this rubbish is doing to their bodies, long term health prospects, and future food choices. Good to know that nurseries are also playing their part.

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  12. Well done to your daughter - valuable lessons for these children. I can remember we had "Domestic Science" lessons when I was at school. By the time my children were at senior school, it was something like "Food Technology" and the only thing I can remember them doing was designing a pizza! Ahem - it is FOOD, about COOKING something . . .

    I was horrified that the 50 yr old teaching assistant couldn't cook - she should have been of an age where they were taught at school, surely?

    My mum was a lousy cook, but she did TRY. I can remember making soda bread, jam tarts, marble cake and things like that with her.

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    1. When I was told about the TA, I struggled to believe it, too. Her negative attitude when cooking lessons were first proposed puzzled my daughter, then the story came out and all became clear. I shudder to think how she fed her family, but now that she is learning the basics, along with the children, she may suddenly find that cooking is fun and will try to make up for lost time.

      I award your mother an A+ for effort! Talking of marble cake, I can remember the first time I saw the inside of one, I was totally enamoured - true to say I am so easily impressed!! I bet your children were very popular at university.

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  13. P.S. I taught my three children to cook and they are all very sound, creative cooks - though some of my son's rather "off the wall" recipes make me raise my eyebrows, they are actually REALLY good!

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  14. Bravos to your daughter! he may really make a difference in these children's lives and health.

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    1. Hello hart, She is a good teacher and really cares about her tiny pupils. I don't know whether the lessons will be continued further up the school but let's hope that by making it fun and rewarding they will reap the benefits later in life, and possibly even become reasonably proficient cooks.

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  15. I leared to cook as a teenager one of the fist things I did was a Vesta Beef Curry, I know out of a packet but it was a start. But when My parenst went on holiday I soon lerned to cook a steak for dinner, fry bacon & egg and do some experimenting. I bought my own house and learned some more from a book called 1000 recipies and cooked my grilfriend (now wife)a meal. Now I can cook a Sunday roast or Christmas dinner, curry, cakes and my lads even prefer the beef burgers I make from the ones you buy in a shop or fast food outlet. I;ll even make soup if my wife needs it. Teach them young so they will not be useless when they are older and can cook for themselfs, my lads can if they need to.

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    1. My goodness, Bill, that has sent me back in time, I remember those little boxes and all the culinary delights they promised! It is wonderful that you discovered the delights of cooking and especially that your boys have been taught to find their way around the kitchen. Christmas dinner, eh - I suppose you are booked for this year? ;)

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  16. I enjoyed this post very much! Cooking is certainly not one of my favorite things to do but like you, I do cook and I cook from scratch. I am always amazed at what folks buy at the grocery store...stacks of the cheap frozen pizzas, chips, cookies, soft drinks, all sorts of frozen meals. It worries me too that children are growing up not knowing how to cook, and a lot of other things too. Good for your daughter!!

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    1. It is worrying, Henny. As you say, a peek at other people's shopping is quite scary sometimes. My daughter has gone to school dressed as a rather wonderful witch, with long flowing blue hair and a pointed hat, I bet she has some delicious treats planned for the class today, probably on the 'naughty' side, but then life is about balance.

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  17. It is really quite scary isn't it. I certainly made sure my three could cook and bake...could certainly tell a difference when they went to university...some students shelves in the fridge and freezer said it all. x

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    1. I can imagine! It must come as a dreadful shock to some students when they have to fend for themselves.x

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Lovely to hear from you!