Magazine article The Spectator

How to Boil an Egg

Magazine article The Spectator

How to Boil an Egg

Article excerpt

From the age of 13 I was famous for my three-course dinners. As the daughter of a recently divorced and newly liberated party-giver, I played the surrogate wife/hostess/ cook role to perfection. The menu never varied: homemade tomato soup (from tinned tomatoes), macaroni cheese and frozen peas, and chocolate mousse for pudding. The mousse never seemed to 'combine' and yet the layer of thick, dark, slightly burnt cocoa that sat on top of the stringy egg mixture was always claimed as the 'best ever tasted' by the generously indulgent guests who sat around my father's dining-room table. I had learnt these skills at school where I was studying for O-level cookery.

After a gap of 20 years, the government has announced that cooking lessons, including instruction on diet, nutrition and hygiene, are to be re-introduced into the school syllabus in 2008, in large part thanks to Jamie Oliver and his campaign to revitalise nutritional standards for children.

These optional lessons (though Jamie as well as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the ATL, are arguing for them to be made compulsory) will at the beginning be offered only to 11-16-year-olds, but it is a start. Governmental concern over childhood obesity is far greater than it is for alcohol and drug abuse; the Department of Health estimates that 22 per cent of girls and 19 per cent of boys will be technically obese by 2010.

The failure to offer cooking lessons at school over the past few decades has meant that skills involved in cake baking, producing a basic white sauce and basting a joint have been lost to at least one generation. With many parents out at full-time work, current twenty- and thirtysomethings rarely had the opportunity to hang around the kitchen learning how supper arrived on the table.

While the takeaway pizza is reheating in the oven, and the M&S chicken kiev for two is whirling round in the microwave, A.A.

Gill has recently pointed out that television shows like Ready Steady Cook give the impression that 'dinner is something you do against the clock for money'. The dream kitchens of glossy brochures, shiny sci-fi chrome affairs, no longer resemble the cosy, floury, faded-rose-pattern-apron'd heart of the home. …

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