Apart from Mum showing me by example how to cook I have been officially taught at various times. When I left school and before I went to college she bought me a six week course at Corden Bleu School of Cookery in Central London. I arrived with mixed feelings, excited at learning more, scared stiff because I still hadn’t got the hang of people yet. The class appeared to be full of young debutantes - I was well out of my comfort zone. I barely understood their cut glass accents,their slang or their collective experiences of country homes, boarding schools and balls, as far removed from my life as could be.
Of course, over six weeks we melded together and I had the advantage of knowing more basic cooking than anyone else. Which earned me some kudos.
It was mainly French cooking we were being taught and although it wasn't my favourite cuisine, too much reliance on sauces for my liking, I throughly enjoyed my weeks there, learnt a lot and was even able to show Mum a few new tips. I think if she hadn’t been so shy or had more confidence in her talents, it was a course she would have enjoyed joining herself. In the same way as she encouraged me to cook she encouraged me to travel. I learnt how to manage among other skills, Game of all kinds (I often ate it when I nannied in the homes of those who hunted for a meal, but I never had to cook it until later in life, how to plan elaborate dinner parties (as if I was ever go to throw one of those!)
Unfortunately I had to miss the last three days of the course, as I was due at college. If I had stayed I would have mastered the skills for jam making:( As Mum had never made jam at home I had been looking forward to mastering the skill. I wasn’t to master the skill until I was in my late 40s, and then I taught myself.
But master it I did producing jars of it for many a year, from fruit grown outside in the garden. One of my smaller ambitions ticked off the list:)
As soon as I entered nanny college. It was back to cooking lessons, this time not the French cuisine of upper class living but nursery food. This was better fun than I expected, we learn basic nutrient information, created healthy but fun menus.
I was a good cook by this time but I went totally haywire at college making mistake after mistake, cracking under the army type discipline and arid conditions of the place. I burnt, dropped, spilt and generally disgraced all my mothers training! I remember a small steamed pudding I made which was so solid it bounced when I dropped it. I did pass the exams,just. But after I had left the hated college I was well away, cooking in small kitchens for children was the easiest.
I picked up tips and methods as I travelled and every new home I worked in I discovered new family recipes. Learnt how to use new foodstuffs.
Then after I returned home, years later I decided it would be useful to go on a vegetarian cookery course.
Moi, who loves her meat so much!
I had eaten many vegetarian dishes by then, on my travels through lands where meat isn't the be all and end all of cuisine. It was a week’s course packed full of new information for my greedy brain to absorb. My default is still meat based meals but I think it is probably a 50/50 split these days
I taught myself chutney making in my 50s. Now stepping into my 7th decade I am learning a whole new way of cooking. One which accommodate wrists that don’t work as they should, a back which sags from exhaustion and a heart which doesn't like standing or reaching. With taste dysfunctions and decreasing appetite.
But. But. But.
There are new flavours, new dishes to be discovered and this old lady is not giving up learning how to cook any time soon.