When I graduated from primary school at the age of 10 I was sent to an Intermediate School which was for two years and covered what today would be Sixth Grade and Year Seven. In those two years we were supposed to ‘find ourselves’ and so were exposed to a range of subjects we had not known before like languages (French only), music lessons (guitar only), art classes (pottery and can you believe, candle making) and home making skills.
There were four subjects that came under ‘homemaking skills’ and these were woodwork (boys only), metal work (boys only), sewing (girls only) and home science (girls only). Being a girl, for the first half of the year I was sent to the sewing room and for the second half of the year I went to home science.
I didn’t like sewing. The teacher was so old she had also taught my mother. And my mother had said she was old back then. Her name was Miss Lopdell and we used to think we were hilarious by calling her Miss Slopdell. She had somehow lost a leg and it had been replaced with a wooden one and so she walked with a slight limp and we were always staring at her legs trying to work out which was the fake one. It would have been easier for us to work this out if she didn’t wear such thick beige stockings but we all had constant arguments as to whether the wooden one was on the left or the right. There was a constant dare right through the students of the entire school that on April Fool’s Day someone had to take a pin and stab it into her wooden leg. I know the poor woman was stabbed many times but I’m not sure how many times in the wooden leg.
After decades of teaching, Miss Lopdell seemed bored with us all. We were all idiots and this was proven when a friend of mine was sitting at the sewing machine and someone ran her finger under the needle creating a complete bloody mess and Miss Lopdell yelled out that this sort of thing only happens when students don’t listen to instructions and, ‘Now look; the needle’s broken’ like that was the only upset. And indeed, my friend’s finger bone had been rather harsh on the needle and snapped it. She sat at the machine with a broken sewing needle embedded in her bone crying her eyes out while Miss Lopdell gave us a lecture on how to take more care with the expensive equipment we had been blessed with. When the lecture was over my friend with the embedded needle was allowed to visit the sick bay where the nurse decided she needed a visit to the local hospital.
It’s hard to remember what we did actually learn in these sewing lessons except that we would be in a lot of pain if we did run the sewing machine over our own fingers. We were required to make an apron to wear in the Home Science classes and we also had to make a pillow slip. Beyond these two items I’m not sure that we produced anything else in the entire two years of classes.
Despite failing to learn a thing, we certainly had a lot of laughs.
It seemed it was always cold in the sewing room and a good remedy was coming home to a steamed pudding.
Steamed Treacle Puddings
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
- 4 tbsp golden syrup
- 140g (5 0z) butter
- 140g (5 oz) brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 tbsp milk
- 140g (5 0z) self-raising flour
Heat oven to 180C (350F). Butter 4 200ml (7 fl oz) oven-proof moulds and pour a tablespoon of golden syrup into each one.
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add milk and stir it in well, then add flour and stir in lightly until the mixture is quite thick. Spoon the mixture into the pots until 3/5 full and cover each one with buttered foil. Place in a baking tray of hot water and bake for around 45 minutes until the puddings rise and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven, and rest for 5 minutes before removing foil and turning out the puddings carefully onto servings plates.
Serve hot with pure cream or clotted cream or even ice cream.
This recipe has been adapted from Jill Dupleix’s Old Food.
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