Tag Archives: cooking

So what are parents teaching their children ?

In an attempt to teach the use and effect of poetic devices through the analogy of recipes today, I have to admit I have reached a new all-time high in my despair for parenting skills today.

So, you have some eggs, flour, sugar, fat – either margarine or butter – what are we cooking today? images

Silence. Eventually, one of the brighter girls realises this is not a trick spelling question and ventures, “A cake?” 

Mmmm. Ok. Anything else ? What if we find some milk as well ? 

Another, longer silence. “Pancakes ?” Good. Anything else ?

And so  it went on. OK – so baking isn’t their thing. Let’s try – minced meat, onions, tomatoes [I am drawing sketchy images on the board] may be potatoes or spaghetti, carrots even. 

Nothing. No response. Nope, not happening. Finally, I crack – what about – ah ! an interruption – “a pie” is offered. I am encouraged. And get carried away with references to bolognese, shepherd’s pie, cottage pie – adding chilli powder ( !) chilli … 

What struck me most about this lesson was that once I had imparted the concept of ‘ingredients’ – similes, rhyme, metaphors, violent language – being mixed up and used for different effects in poetry the kids had no problem. It was the cooking thing they couldn’t handle.

And it is sad, I realise, now that I am home and showing my own daughter the best way to slice a rib of lamb chops, that what I – the school – have taught the children, they have learned. They are teachable.


In the wake of the ‘horse meat scandal’ it is sad to realise there is a whole generation out there who can not return to the butcher. Frozen beefburger sales are down 43%, according to the BBC this morning. But even that means there is still a huge percentage of the population continuing to rely on Findus and Tesco to throw together a few handfuls of minced beef and a chopped up onion, roll it up in a ball and flatten it for them, so they can chuck ‘beefburgers’ under the grill for dinner.

And it’s not just food that has changed. Families don’t watch television together, children are not read to and crafts have been consigned to some obscure television channels no-one actually turns on. Teachers are no longer able to use family soap operas or film adaptations of great novels as points of reference in lessons about social problems or relationship issues. 16 year olds do not know who Winston Churchill was and there is no longer either pride or shame for the once glorious Empire that the sun never set on. Sewing and card games metaphors are lost on children today. Supermarkets provide mums with ready-made Hallowe’en costumes and literary allusions to Bible stories, myths and fairy tales not adapted by Disney are completely wasted on teenagers today.

In their parents’ quest to earn enough money to provide ipods and laptops, large televisions and fortnights in Costa Cheaper in School Holidays, what price are not only children paying, but their parents too?

My parents must have passed on only fragments, a fraction of their practical knowledge to me: I can’t make a dress and my pastry is decidedly ropey to say the least. But at least I know that meals are put together from raw ingredients; cotton and wool are woven and Cinderella had a step-mother because her own mother had died – her father’s new wife was there to ‘step’ into her place, not because her own mother had moved out and abandoned her to shack up with a better offer.

The generation of children I am teaching today seems to be losing out on all fronts: their own parents weren’t taught to bake or use up Sunday left-overs; they weren’t taught to make their own clothes or toys and they weren’t taught how to create Hallowe’en outfits out of plastic bin bags and 3 ½ miles of sellotape. But they weren’t taught to use the internet, download from itunes or build a blogging site either. The wealth of basic skills passed on for generations is being lost. But today’s parents were not prepared for the new technology their children are now expected to embrace either.

So we have a generation of kids left entirely to the mercy of the formal education system and after-school games’ clubs. And a generation of parents who have missed out on the best years of their children’s lives.

And just when I was beginning to think I was being a bit harsh, accusing young people and their parents of Heavens knows what I came across this:

Blogging students: ‘We’re so well educated – but we’re useless. Guardian February 2013:

Record numbers of students have entered higher education in the past 10 years, but despite being the most educated generation in history, it seems that we’ve grown increasingly ignorant when it comes to basic life skills.

Looking back on my first couple weeks of living in student halls, I consider myself lucky to still be alive. Unbeknown to freshers, there are many hidden dangers lurking in the dirty corners of student accommodation.

I have survived a couple of serious boiling egg incidents and numerous cases of food-poisoning, probably from filthy kitchen counters. Although some of my clothes have fallen victim to ironing experimentation, I think I have now finally acquired all the domestic skills I missed out on in my modern education… 

A really good way to spend the next ten minutes of your life: watch this – http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_changing_education_paradigms.htm

This entry was first posted on 27 February 2013.


Horse Meat Scandal

Pancake mix – some flour and dried egg – add milk.Pancake Ingredients

‘Beef’burgers – minced ‘beef’, chopped onion and seasoning rolled into a bun shape and squashed flat.

Mixed salad – some leaves ripped off various lettuces and other green stuff (much of it discarded as weeds in your own garden), dipped in a large water tank to ‘wash it’ and placed in a cellophane bag.

Until as recently as the Edwardian era anyone who could afford it employed a variety of staff to undertake the measuring, washing and cooking of their food. There were a few short years when gadgets enabled even well-off women to prepare their own food for the whole family. And then women moved into the workplace en masse and we returned to employing a large staff to prepare our food for us. We share this staff:  they are employed by large food companies, and we buy individual portions and warm them up in oven and microwaves.

I can’t imagine what goes through the head of a pancake mix worker as he or she measures out tonnes of plain flour, adds hundredweights of dried egg and, in some cases, hundredweights of milk powder. Do they ever try to imagine what kind of idle useless wonder can’t do this for a ½ pint portion in their own kitchen?

Your average salad bag packer may stop and give the consumer some credit, arguing that to put together a mixed salad of, say, five different leaves would involve having to eat a hell of a lot of lettuce before five full sized clumps of weed went off.

And your beef burger, lasagne, faggot and bolognese ‘chef’ ? Seriously, how much respect does the warmer-up of these ‘meals’ really expect some poorly paid little man, who knows that most of us have kitchens full of magical devices for practically every food to be chopped up, smooth-ed, steamed and griddled in its own special machine tucked away in endless rows of cupboards, cupboards only needed to tuck away these machines that none of us actually ever even want to use, to have for Tesco’s customers? (Very long sentence there – you may need to read that one again – slowly this time.) I expect he and his mates will be a bit surprised at all the fuss about which animal he is chucking into his little mixer. And he will care even less about where the dead bits of animal came from.

In a world where mad Americans are shooting children and yet still feel the need to have the right to own guns to defend themselves against their own government, where 14 year old girls are shot for campaigning for the education of girls, a world where hundreds if not thousands of kids are forced to live by scavenging on rubbish tips and churches continue to attempt to defend the institutional and systematic abuse of children, it’s not difficult to get your head around a total lack of respect for animal rights. Circuses, bull-fighting and rodeos are still legal world-wide. So is testing on animals. And whilst illegal, dog-fighting and  badger hunting continue to be a source of amusement for sick-minded warped individuals.


Does it really matter that horse meat, a perfectly edible product,  has been found in processed ‘beef’ products? Isn’t it no less than the idle or ‘too busy’ deserve? Is it just a matter of not getting what’s on the label? Anyway, horse meat is leaner and cheaper than beef – perhaps we should adopt it as part of our daily diet like our European cousins. It could even address national obesity.

However, none of the above concerns me. What does concern me is the animal welfare. And the safety of the food itself. With reports of some of the horse meat having been generated from as far away as Romania and Poland, and with a clear disregard for laws governing food processing, it is difficult for me to imagine the people involved having much respect for the animals’ living – and dying – conditions, for the health and safety regulations regarding the processing and the transportation of the food – not to mention the working conditions of the employees of the companies and businesses involved. None of which have been discussed in the media yet !

I will be digging out my gadgets this week – and my local butcher!
This entry was first posted on 9th February 2013.