‘Chicken! Chicken! You want to roast a chicken!’
Christopher has drifted into my room with a plastic carrier bag containing a trussed chicken, some muddy potatoes and a packet of dripping.
‘Christopher, we can’t afford to cook chicken. It’s too expensive. Where did you get it from?’
I want to say ‘..nick it from?’ but that would open a can of worms.
Chicken is for special occasions like Easter and Christmas. We don’t have to learn anything about chicken. Teaching chicken would be as pointless as a lesson on beluga caviar. And I’ve never cooked a chicken in my life – or eaten caviar.
Christopher doesn’t do school much. He doesn’t do his hair or take his grubby anorak off. And sometimes he doesn’t do his flies up. And Christopher never does my homework, but it’s pointless chasing him.
‘ Find a recipe in my books for roast chicken and you can follow that.’
The rest of the class is busy making shepherd’s pie, and Christopher’s idea of roasting a chicken is a nuisance, but this is a surprise visit to my lesson and he needs encouraging to cook.
Marguerite Patten takes him through the recipe in simple steps, and as the rest of us busy on making mashing potatoes, the room fills with the rare, delicious smells of roasting chicken.
Skin crispening to golden, breast softening to melt point, and legs ready to rip off and ooze juice. The chicken nests in a circle of roasting potatoes which Christopher occasionally bastes with melting dripping. Crisp, golden potatoes , with crisp golden chicken. Yum.
I comfort the class who are suffering from the roasting smells.
‘We don’t need to learn about chicken, you’ll never be asked any questions about it in the exam, and it’s in none of our textbooks. And there are no recipes for chicken in Cooking is Fun. It’s too dear.’
Christopher brings over the roasting tin and holds out his sizzling feast.
‘Can you give me a mark for this miss, and can I eat it here?’
No sharing, no offer of the smallest taste.
That night I go out to Villa Bianca in Hampstead and order their latest feast – chicken Kiev.