Sunday, 15 March 2009

Home Economics

Here's a lovely, happy photo of my three cheeky children together. It's a couple of years old now, and it amazes me just how much they have all changed so much in that short space of time. Grace, on the right, is now quite the young lady, soon to be 16, and at the moment she is very busy with studying for her GCSEs. Alice is so much more grown up looking than she was in this photo - she's not a chubby little girl any more. And Archie - well, he is now 4, and quite a handful.

They are lovely kids though, and all of them different in character, but very alike in some ways. They are all very caring, they each have a great sense of humour, and would do anything for each other.

As this blog is supposed to be primarily about baking - I was just thinking about each of the children, and how different they are about wanting to cook. As long as he gets to lick the bowl or have some goodies, Archie loves to help. He will get his little booster stool and hop up to watch me and get involved........ constantly hinting that "those sweeties look nice" or "that icing looks yummmmmy". As for Alice, well - she is happy to do any job for me, as long as she is getting her hands dirty and messy. There is nothing she likes more than the mucky jobs, and where I will find any way, tool or piece of machinery to prevent me getting messy hands, Alice will just want to dive right in there and get gunky. She has always been the same, and I remember when she was small and at nursery she would ask to do painting..........and then be content to just paint her hands with layer upon layer of coloured paint. Then there's Grace. Quite different to the other two - she doesn't help in the kitchen, and has no interest in cooking at the moment whatsoever. I have tried to encourage her, and include her with various different projects - and it wasn't until recently that she told me the reason she hated anything to do with cooking............ the cleaning up afterwards. She said that it did look like it might be fun, but that she had seen me clearing up after a cooking session, and it was NOT for her.

When I was at school, we did Home Economics, and learnt all sorts of things about cooking, running a home, catering for different diets and needs, and how to "bake from scratch". I am now 43, so it really isn't that long ago that I was at school. I am thankful that we had those lessons at school, because it was through those that I learnt to love cooking. I can remember the very first thing we made - stuffed eggs. It was basically just mixing hard boiled egg yolk with mayonnaise and tuna, then piping it back into the hollowed out egg whites. But, from that first lesson, I was hooked. We learnt how to make all sorts of things - choux pastry, puff pastry, cakes, savoury dishes....... Wednesday nights were frequently spent eating the results of my latest Home Economics lesson for dinner.

I didn't realise that things had changed so much in schools until my daughters started secondary school. No longer was Home Economics on the curriculum. No longer was it something they did every week, until they decided whether or not to take it at exam level. Now, they have it mixed in with "Textiles and Resistant Materials", and they do it for a term a year. That means that in the three years Grace took it, she only actually had cookery lessons for about 30 weeks, and practical lessons for less than half of that time.

She came home one day and told me they needed to take in the ingredients to make an apple pie. I was preparing myself to rummage around and find lots of little plastic containers for the various things she would need..............until she gave me the shopping list of things they had been told to get. I don't know if you will be as shocked as I was, but this is what was on the list:

1 tin of apple pie filling
1 packet of frozen pastry

Another time, they were going to be doing fairy cakes. By this time, I thought I was prepared for anything - and as I LOVE to make cakes (and so know how very easy it is to whip up a batch of fairy cakes!) I had everything to hand.................................... or so I thought. The list of ingredients was as follows:

1 packet of ready made fairy cakes (or home made ones if you prefer)
1 packet of roll out icing
various sweets and decorations

Now, I'm not a super intelligent person, I don't get paid heaps of money to advise the public about healthy eating, I don't analyse statistics about how obese our children are becoming, I'm not able to have a TV programme or head up a campaign to make school dinners healthier. BUT - I CAN see that if we want our children to live healthier futures, we have to TEACH THEM how to cook healthy things, how to recognise a balanced diet and include things that are good for them. I think that Jamie Oliver should use his high profile and influence to do something about implementing some sort of change to the curriculum in our schools, and teach the next generation how to cook properly - and not to think that to make an apple pie all you need is a tin of pie filling and a pack of frozen pastry!

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