Brussells Sprouts with Bacon and Home Science

Before we graduated from textiles classes we had to prove we could make an apron.  Before we were allowed to stitch the apron we had to practise sewing straight lines on brown paper with no cotton in the machine.  If the needle holes in the brown paper were straight enough we were allowed to use the machine to sew real fabric with real cotton thread.

I managed to graduate from brown paper and no thread to real material with cotton thread but by the time I did this the only fabric remaining was orange.  I was disappointed.

Brussels Sprout with Bacon Batons and Water Chestnuts

I was however very excited on my first day of home science because I just knew I would love home science so much more than textiles.  Mrs Starkey was our teacher and while about 40 years younger than the sewing teacher she wasn’t as personable or as friendly.  She rolled her eyes a lot and looked upon us as idiots.  And pretty much we were.  We put on our brand new badly made aprons and wondered what we were cooking for our first lesson.

Again, I was disappointed.  All we made was lemonade and it didn’t even involve making a sugar syrup.  We just squeezed some lemons, poured the juice into a pitcher, added sugar then filled it up with water.  We didn’t even come close to doing anything remotely interesting like turning on the oven.

Things got better but they involved a lot of boiling.  Mrs Starkey seemed to specialise in teaching us how to make a home cooked dinner so there was boiled fish with boiled vegetables, a grilled lamb chop with boiled vegetables and frying pan steak with boiled vegetables.  After cooking each meal we had to sit up at tables and eat what we had created.

For the baking, the school provided some ingredients but not all of them.  Flour and sugar were provided and these were found in great big wooden bins at the front of the room where you just helped yourself.  Everything else had to be brought in from home and my mother used to groan when I gave her the list.  We made scones, pikelets, tea cakes, bread, sticky buns and cupcakes.  There was little electrical equipment so we beat egg whites, creamed butter and sugar and whipped cream all by hand.  We were strong!

Mrs Starkey took all the seasons into account and she taught us to make our own marshmallow Easter eggs coated in melted chocolate (wish I had kept the recipe) and there was a lesson in making a Christmas cake that took three weeks to make.  The first week we soaked the fruit, the second week we baked the cake and the third week it was iced and decorated.

I just loved Home Science.  It was such a welcome relief from being stuck behind a desk in the classroom and at last I was doing something I enjoyed rather than enduring endless boring lessons that only had me confused.  The foods we were taught to cook were basic but the principles were sound and we finished the course knowing that if left on our own we could fend for ourselves and survive.  An excellent and very worthwhile course!

Most of the dinners we had to make involved a lot of boiling.  Here’s a recipe that isn’t so aggressive and just steams the vegetables.

A great side-dish

Braised Brussels Sprouts with Water Chestnuts and Bacon

Serves 4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Brussels Sprouts are currently in season and are therefore very affordable.  This is a great accompaniment for many dishes.

  • 200gm piece of bacon, sliced into batons
  • 16 small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and criss-crossed
  • 1 small tin of water chestnuts rinsed and drained

Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp.

Fill a medium-sized saucepan with a shallow amount of water.  Add a tsp of salt.  When boiling, add Brussels sprouts.  Place lid on saucepan.  Steam for about 5 mins or until sprouts are softened.  Drain.

Add Brussels sprouts to frying pan and toss to combine with bacon batons.  Add water chestnuts and heat until cooked through.

Serve as a side-dish to other meats and vegetables.

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  1. I adore brussels sprouts and the addition of bacon is just yummy. I will try this dish for sure. I never had the opportunity of Home Science but my kids did and it sure helped them along. I did however experience the brown paper with needle marks bit though HAHA! Brought back some fond memories there. Thanks Charlie xx

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Colleen, glad you began your sewing apprenticeship with brown paper also. Wasn’t it exciting when they finally let us actually sew! xx

  2. I remember one home economics class we had to make pizza. This was quite a new style of food in the early 70’s and thought of as very exotic. Anyway my pizza tasted wonderful, but I received low marks because the crust was too thick. If only I had patented it – I could now be rich being the first to develop thick crust pizza’s!!

  3. This post makes me wish I’d taken home economics 🙂

    I lightly steam my brussel sprouts and then toss them in a frying pan with buttered breadcrumbs and garlic but I think I’ll toss bacon and water chestnuts in there too. This looks great.

  4. A_Boleyn says:

    A very simple meal indeed but tasty … if you can get by the brussels sprouts. 🙂 Actually, I’ve yet to try brussels sprouts but since I’ve found I like cabbage, I don’t think that should hold me back any longer.

  5. Minnesota Prairie Roots says:

    Ah, we called this home economics when I was in high school. I loved to sew and did like the cooking and baking part, too, because we made foods that were never prepared at home.

  6. Thanks for that little step back in time. I can’t recall what we made in cooking class; I distinctly recall that there were no boys, they took shop! I adore brussels sprouts and with the bacon and water chestnuts, it sounds incredibly delicious.

  7. I’ve never thought to add water chestnuts to this dish. I like to cook my Brussels sprouts for this in the oven to get them nice and crispy.

    The only class I took that involved any cooking was when I was 14. I remember a lot of teasing from the boys at the cooking station next to me (super intense and impossible to deal with)… I also remember not having any interest in cooking for the next six or seven years. I’d never put two and two together before, but perhaps that’s why.

  8. ChgoJohn says:

    Home science wasn’t offered in the schools I attended. So different from today. The boy that lives above me chose the high school he is about to attend because it has a culinary curriculum. Mom my was home science teacher. I’m not complaining.
    Brussels sprouts with bacon is a great combo and water chestnuts would be a great addition. I have to give ’em a try.

  9. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    I really think home economics (as we call it) should be a required class for all students, as well as shop to teach basic repair/building skills. I certainly use those skills a lot more frequently than algebra!

  10. I was doing home science (we called it food tech) till last year and your teacher sounds exactly like ours!
    How I miss it 😀
    And yep, me and textiles were not friends at all 😉

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. GourmetGetaway says:

    You and I must be a similar vintage. I could have written the same story exactly, and my feelings for home science were the same too. The only difference is that I also really loved textiles. My mum taught me to sew when I was a kids so I probably would have managed the apron 😉

  12. yummychunklet says:

    I love steamed veggies, so this Brussels sprouts dish is right up my alley!

  13. Claire @ Claire K Creations says:

    I would have loved to do home science when I was at school. It’s really something that should be taught to all kids!

    My mum would have loved to be left with the orange!

  14. Victoria at Flavors of the Sun says:

    Nice story. I’m glad you enjoyed home science…I didn’t. We didn’t start with an apron. We made a dress with set in waist, sleeves, colar, side zipper, and darts. Yikes! How did I ever pass????

    Nice combo of bacon and Brussels sprouts. Looks easy and quick.

  15. Mary @ beyondjelly says:

    Hrm… I haven’t touched brussels sprouts since I was forced to as a child. But bacon does make everything better, so maybe I should give these a go. 😉

  16. Wow…that’s really strange that you had to bring everything from home…because I thought the school provided all these materials and that the cost was in the school fees ~

    Charlie i feel so bad saying this but lol i usually LOVE your recipes…but I just don’t think I could eat brussel sprouts 😛 but still lovely recipe and story! xoxo

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s okay Daisy. You don’t have to like everything I make. I have loved Brussels sprouts all my life which probably makes me either unusual or barking mad. I really love the vibrant green colour of them too and the textures in this dish are wonderful. But…it’s not for everyone! xx

  17. InTolerantChef says:

    I really like brussel sprouts, they were my favourite veggie when I was young. Unfortunately my family doesn’t share my brussely love 🙁
    I wrote the senior hospitality curriculum for one school, and there were very few boring recipes indeed. We included pigs trotters for stock, shrimp paste, making spice paste from scratch, steaming in banana leaves, so many yummy things! a far cry from the baked apples I was allowed to make in year 8 🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      What a great and interesting curriculum. That should have been introduced Australia wide. I notice you don’t mention boiling anything – what a relief! xx

  18. ChopinandMysaucepan says:

    Dear Charlie,

    I love Brussels sprouts and since I discovered how to make bacon salt, I find that it is so tasty to sprinkle some over the sprouts.

  19. Your cooking sounds much better than ours was. I have a strong memory of making, and then being told to eat, macaroni cheese which is just about The Most Disgusting Dish Ever in my mind. Ugh. I’d have taken Easter eggs and pikelets any day! Vegetables like this would have been welcome too.

  20. Angela Kim says:

    What a gorgeous dish! I adore Brussel Sprouts!

    I hope you had a fabulous 4th!
    Twitter @aSquishyMonster

  21. I love brussel sprouts with bacon, they truly compliment each perfectly! Hugs, Terra

  22. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Hehe I can report that my school wasn’t any better with our home ec experiments. In fact I can’t remember a single thing of note or that I make today!! 😛 Although we did do slightly better than boiling everything *shudders*

  23. My mother always complained when I had to take extra ingredients for cooking too. I always felt like I was putting her out? We made some good things at times, but we also had to do research on washing powders???? Nice combo of vegies and bacon – must give it a go – although it will only be for me as the man is allergic to sprouts!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Allergic to sprouts? I haven’t heard of that kind of allergy before. Research on washing powders? No, that wasn’t in our curriculum. What a strange assignment. xx

  24. I used to love that subject in school (although we called it home economics… not sure why, there wasn’t really any “economics” in it). It was mainly just cooking and I took it as a GCSE. It was always a good day when I had this. I usually had it right at the end of the day, between 4-5pm. We’d all go in, make something delicious and then take it away afterwards back home! 😀

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, Home Science was always such a welcome relief from Maths and Science – two problem subjects for me!

  25. Garden Correspondent says:

    I remember in sewing class we were making baby dresses by hand and we used to have to take our work up to the teacher and she would take the dress by its seams and give it a good long tug to see of our stitches were tight enough! How I envied the older girls who got to bake cakes.

  26. justonecookbook says:

    Love brussel sprouts and so happy that I have another recipe to try (I tried so many kinds but not with water chestnut so far). Very simple flavor yet, this is all about enjoying different textures and simple flavor. I love this recipe very much!

  27. Juliet Batten says:

    I can still remember some of my home science recipes, such as ginger nuts and lemon jelly which I made for the family after learning them at school. It was so exciting to learn to cook.

  28. Textiles was not for me, not at all. However, cooking class? So good. My friends and I became good enough friends with our teacher that she let us use the kitchens to cook hot lunches for ourselves during winter 😛

    • hotlyspiced says:

      What a lovely teacher. And yes, on cold days it was always good to hang out near the warm ovens in the home science room xx

  29. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) says:

    I’ve love brussels and bacon, but the addition of waterchesnuts…brilliant. Has to be soooooo good!

  30. I love brussels sprouts..and of course EVERYTHING tastes better with bacon! 🙂

  31. Boiling…lots and lots of boiling. Ah yes, that sounds a lot like my home economics class. 🙂 I’ve never been a huge fan of brussel sprouts, but I have to say. I had one recently that was properly cooked and it was much better than my memory.

  32. Thats a lovely brussel sprouts recipe, I never tried water chestnuts on it

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