My 1970s rooms have a range of cookers hired from the Gas and Electricity Boards. Each company sends their finest equipment and we have an equal number of gas and electric cookers so that students can make a fair comparison and take information home to their parents. Well that is the idea. No sign of oil fired Agas or stoves heated by solid fuel to address this energy balance. In fact, teenage cooks couldn’t care less about the frills and fancies of modern cookers. What matters most is how quickly they can cook something to eat.
The Gas Board replaces the cookers every two years and also sends along home economists to show us how they work. These are the days of Gas and Electricity showrooms where helpful people guide you in your cooker choice.
The weirdest appliance I have to use to get this energy balance is a gas powered refrigerator and unsurprisingly, these fridges were rarely sold to customers and have now been discontinued.
My favourite school visit from the Gas Board is the day they come to show us how to set the automatic timers and make a complete meal that cooks in the oven. This is chosen for some idyllic family that skips off for a country walks or goes on a collective fishing trip and returns for the ready cooked feast.
The Gas Board menu is usually a three course meal consisting of
Starter – grilled grapefruit topped with brown sugar,
Main course – baked potato with roasted lamb chop and frozen peas
Pudding – baked golden syrup sponge with rice pudding
My class and I perch on stools watching as the two home economists show us how to cut zig zags round the grapefruit to make a posh starter, then how to wrap the lamb chop bones in foil to stop them drying out and finally the magical ‘all in one’ sponge where you chuck all the ingredients in a bowl and give them a whizz with one of our new electric whisks. (There are no gas powered whisks available.) Everything goes into the oven at once and the timer is set.
The home economists come prepared with all their ingredients and tools, and at the end give us a chance to taste. All I have to do is keep the class in order, stop them thumping each other and make sure they ask polite questions with no double meanings.
While we wait for the automatically cooked feast to arrive, we are shown the wonders of the eye level grill with its smart rotisserie, and tools and spikes that we will never use. These are pre outdoor barbecue days – maybe the summers are too cold? The home economists pass round the spoons for tasting samples and we all rush rudely to the serving table to get more than our share. Meantime, these two hard working ladies wash and pack up and head wearily home. We have had a brilliant time and these demonstrations are a complete treat for me as I have a few hours to relax and enjoy experts at work.
They leave me with a room full of automatic timers that boys with mechanical minds love to twiddle, with knobs that set the times to ping when I am talking or even worse, the cookers won’t warm up at all. It is hard to catch the culprits as a twist of a timer knob can take a second and creates loads of fun as I whirl round the room trying to get the lesson started.