From Decluttering to Reiki, the Joy of Teaching Ourselves; IN THE LOOP: Girls Teach Themselves Keep Fit with the Aid of Hula-Hoops in the Fifties. Inset: The Book for Bee-Keepers
Byline: Trevor Barnes
Fingers on buzzers, here's your starter for ten. What is the ideal pig for curing as bacon? You probably don't have a clue but in 1956 if you had been a 16-year-old considering a career in the grocery business then you would have been expected to know that answer and a whole lot more besides.
In 1956, Teach Yourself Grocery For Beginners was first published.
History does not record whether one Jack Cohen of Whitechapel, East London, purchased a copy of the distinctive yellow and black book but it seems likely that this entrepreneur was no stranger to its exacting standards.
After all he had just opened the first self-service Tesco supermarket in Maldon, Essex.
So how did this Teach Yourself phenomenon begin? In September 1937, a group of editors at publishers Hodder & Stoughton assembled to devise a snappy title for a proposed new educational imprint.
A succession of dull names was suggested before a young man called Leonard Cutts hit upon the Teach
Yourself idea. All the company needed now was a book - and an author. Step forward Evelyne White, who launched the inaugural volume - Teach Yourself To Cook.
In White's world the kitchen ('the housewife's workshop') became a place in which to invent and to dream. It was also the engine room of the home and a practical metaphor for domestic stability - 70 years, incidentally, before Nigella Lawson said the same thing on TV.
White took every opportunity to sing the praises of meat fingers and powdered egg and promote 'adventuring in cookery'. In so doing she set the tone for the titles of the next three decades, championing thrift and inventiveness, deriding waste and gently encouraging readers to learn new skills.
Squadron Leader Nigel Tangye was quick to follow White's lead. Admittedly his Teach Yourself To Fly, also published in 1938, was an unlikely choice for those living in the slums of Leeds, but it would soon become an invaluable tool for training prospective pilots being conscripted to defend British skies. …