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.
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.
Braised Brussels Sprouts with Water Chestnuts and Bacon
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.
Want to keep in touch? Join the fun on the Hotly Spiced Facebook Page!