About the book

I taught them to cook is a book about the cookery lessons that I taught to my boisterous east end of London students in the 1970s. This blog and the book are written about my memories of that time.

My students cook their way through endless fatty cakes and pastries, to get to a high level of skill which they can show off in their cooking exam. They must learn to cook two course meals and pack a picnic for a fishing trip as well as washing and drying a jumper to show their laundry skills. These are the good old days of teaching students to cook, but we taught some very daft and pointless things along the way.

Britain at this time is going through massive food changes. New equipment such as freezers and microwaves are on the way. New ingredients such as TVP arrive on our shores and change our diets forever and our diets and cooking ingredients have changed massively over the last forty years . Why did we never teach chicken? When did avocados and garlic arrive? When did olive oil change from being sold in Boots the Chemist as something you tipped into your ear for earache, and become a major ingredient on our supermarket shelves? There are recipes of the dishes that we cooked at the time such as eccles cakes, scotch eggs and stuffed, roasted hearts,using the ingredients we had in those days. So ketchup for spaghetti bolognaise – there was no tomato sauce.  Margarine all the time, egged on by the Stork cookery book and the visiting home economists.

My classes were noisy and  busy, but I believe that in the end I taught them, and myself how to cook.

2 responses to “About the book

  1. jennyridgwell

    I would be really interested to learn what your questions were – if they were as daft as the ones I had to teach! If you find the flour book that would be fun too. All those baking skills for cakes, biscuits and pastries – who said those days were better!


  2. jane wintersgill

    I did Food and Nutrition A Level in 1974 – your description of the Cookery exams brings back memories! AM trying to locate a recipe book we used think it was by a flour manufacturer with 3 recipes a page with photos on the top and the recipes underneath. Seem to remember the photos were quite dark and moody