Yummy bits and bobs from my kitchen!
With a food education system that is more than a little bit lacking, where can we find a love of food?
At school I had a handful of compulsory “food tech” lessons, which mainly consisted of the teacher shouting at one particularly hormonal teenage boy in the class to stop wanking off a rolling pin. The canteen didn’t offer any particular culinary delights either. Their nod towards healthy eating was to take fries off the menu every Friday… and replace them with deep-fried potato waffles.
Jamie Oliver has been campaigning for better food in schools for years now (who could forget images of mums feeding junk food to their kids through the school gates in “Jamie’s School Dinners” in 2005?). I think things have moved on since then and sincerely believe that the quality of food for many children has improved, but it’s probably not gone far enough, and not reached as many kids as it should have. Nor does Jamie apparently. This Food Revolution Day, Jamie launched a campaign to pressure governments to implement real, practical food education in schools. The way he sees it is that the global obesity crisis could be wholly preventable. Surely being educated is the first, most obvious step in that.
The current national curriculum states that children should “be taught how to cook and apply the principles of nutrition and healthy eating.” And that this education should “Instil a love of cooking” and recognise cookery as a “great expression of human creativity”.
I feel that food is an amazing creative outlet, but I didn’t learn this formally. I was lucky enough at school to take part in a couple of cultural exchanges. In particular I remember the music exchanges where I spent several weeks living with a German family and my then music teacher, and loved how they enjoyed a nutritious breakfast spread every morning and a home-cooked meal together almost every night. The food wasn’t always complex, but it was thoughtfully put together and was designed to be eaten accompanied by conversation. This same music teacher taught a couple of my food tech lessons (yes, bizarre, but creative lessons really didn’t get a look in at school, so you’d get weird timetabling like that). Being half Italian and a bit of a maverick, he decided to go off curriculum (Mr Korolyk almost never taught by the curriculum) and teach us a bit about Italian cooking. It was simple stuff like Pasta Pomodoro, but I can honestly say that they were the most useful, enjoyable cookery classes I had. It made food seem accessible.
Sadly Mr K passed away in 2014. Frankly I’m kicking myself that I never took the opportunity to tell him that although I was a rubbish music student (I never practised my cello), he was an unlikely source of inspiration. He was creative and had told me that being raw and rough at something was no reason to quit creating. I might not have pursued an interest in cookery if it weren’t for those seemingly insignificant events from that unlikely source of inspiration.
I’ve been lucky to find a love of food and a creative job without the school system. Other people don’t have the privilege to be inspired. I really think that our education system neglects these people’s needs and leaves them massively disadvantaged. I have signed and shared Jamie Oliver’s petition to improve school food education, and I sincerely believe that it could make a meaningful, tangible difference to people’s health, creativity and career prospects.
Find Jamie’s petition here: https://www.change.org/p/jamie-oliver-needs-your-help-fighting-for-food-education-foodrevolutionday?recruiter=28739219&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_term=mob-xs-share_petition-no_msg&fb_ref=Default