Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Home Economics

Lots and lots of moons ago when I was forced to go to school, I was made to take Home Economics, more commonly known as, 'Cooking'.
At that time, I'd been fending for myself at home for about five years, ever since aged eight, I'd rustled up a meal of tinned meatballs, instant mash, and frozen green beans. Not 'haut cuisine' I grant you, but everything was cooked properly, was ready at the same time, and my dog Chips and I enjoyed it.
I'd also been helping around the kitchen ever since I could remember doing such important jobs as stirring the Christmas Cake, cutting out gingerbread men, and licking the spoon afterwards.
Both my parents cooked and over the years I picked up loads of useful catering tips, most importantly one from my dad being, 'Do not drop a knife on your foot when you are only protected by socks', and for many, many years I believed I was the only person in the house who knew how to make tea*.
So for me, Cooking 101 was a doddle.
The Home Economics teacher was a 'Miss', aged about fifty, and looked like she'd been stuck in the 1950s with an attitude to match.
Children were to be seen, not heard, and she tried to rule the cookery class with an Iron Spoon.
As you might well imagine, this attitude did not go down well with a motley group of thirteen years olds who had grown up in the 1070s, and every opportunity to belittle the teacher was seized with relish, and if possible, extra mayonnaise.
Every week we'd troupe into the Home Ec. room clutching our boxes containing whatever ingredients needed for whatever it was we were going to make that day.
The lessons, apart from what we were cooking, never varied in structure. Firstly, the teacher would write the ingredients needed on the blackboard, and then the method before giving us a lecture on how important it was to follow the instructions exactly to the letter. An ounce either way of flour in a cake mixture would ruin the finished product rendering it inedible, and woe betide the child who failed to Clean Up As They Went Along.
Many times a pupil would be scared witless by her sneaking up behind them as (for example)they added the flour straight from the packet instead of sifting it and get a wooden spoon smack down on the counter next to them as the message of 'Never do that again!' was yelled in their ear.
The teacher's method of marking the end product, was that we would put our cakes (or whatever) on a plate with our names written on a piece on paper which was then hidden by the food, and then the teacher would test each cake for quality, texture and taste.
Every week I would get screamed at for doing something wrong; either I'd rubbed the flour in the wrong way, or I'd added too much egg yolk, in fact pretty much every thing I did was wrong in her opinion, and despite her yelling at me that I would never, ever make a decent cook, she would unfailingly give me top marks for my end product, and the irony wasn't lost on her either.
Now, thirteen year olds, no matter how usually well behaved they are, will eventually rebel under the regime of a tyrant, and one fine day we did just that.
We'd planned everything well in advance, and come the day we were all due to make drop scones which meant we had plenty of eggs and flour in our boxes.
The lessons lasted the whole of the afternoon without a break for us, but the teacher would say to us that she had to go back to check on something important in the staff room with unfailing regularity, which we all knew meant she was sneaking out for a cigarette. This gave us ten minutes alone in the Home Ec. room unsupervized.
Nearly a whole term of being screamed at and scared witless by random spoon attacks had led to us feeling rather resentful, and all of us had come up with an idea of how to bring the teacher down a peg or two.
It was the last day of term. All of us had brought in extra flour, and one boy had stored some eggs that were past their prime in an airing cupboard for over a fortnight.
As soon as the harridan went for her fag break we sprang into action.
We got out our extra flour and put it into one of the large plastic storage boxes that were kept in the room, before very carefully balancing it on the top of the door which we'd left open ever so slightly.
Some of the eggs were placed in the teachers desk and the remainder were secreted in her handbag.
Not one of us batted an eyelid as the teacher entered the room and the flour landed right on her head enveloping her in a cloud of white and spluttering somewhat.
For the first time ever, she didn't scream. We all carried on with our drop scones without even a glance in her direction.
She went to get the headmaster who informed us that we'd be in serious trouble come the next term, but I wasn't too bothered as I was leaving the school anyway, which sadly meant I never got to find out what happened about the rancid eggs.
If that teacher happens to be reading this, it wasn't my idea, but I'm not very sorry about it.
And as to you saying I'd never make it as a cook, who's laughing now, eh?

*Ever since I made my first cuppa aged three, both my parent told me they didn't know how to make a cup for themselves so of course, feeling very proud of myself, I'd show them how, but for some reason they never got the hang of it.