My headteacher said I’d never get a job if I studied food at school. How wrong she was!

Blog shortlisted for Guild Award

It’s led to a busy life teaching, training and writing about food. I Taught Them to Cook is a memoir of the 1970s when everything was changing – our food choices and fashion. Food teaching at the time had out-of-date textbooks and stupid things like laying a tray for an invalid for their practical cookery exams. My students and I puzzled through and I was determined to change things. And it happened!


You don’t have to be interested in food or education to enjoy Jenny Ridgwell’s page-turning account of teaching a disruptive and unwilling class of teenagers how to cook food in the 1970s. You will absorb a lot of social food history and fascinating period detail – Angel Delight? Stuffed lamb’s hearts? How to set out a tempting tray for an invalid? – but you will also be engaged by the two underlying narratives. One is how an inexperienced 23 year old teacher in an East London school managed to lure her grumpy class to engage with an out of date curriculum and produce delicious food, even to turn up for the dreaded exam. The other is Jenny’s own out of school quest to find the perfect man who will rescue her from being left on the shelf. Like the dated recipes she persuades her class to cook, the challenging ingredients of Jenny’s story turn, in her hands, into a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

by Lesley Garner