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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Evidence that Fran knows what to do when a loaf isn't rising

I had an O'level Domestic Science teacher in the 1970s called Mrs Gough.  She's one of the reasons I love cooking pastry, puddings and cakes, although she owes me about £596.00 in weekly fees to Slimming World and Weightwatchers as a result.

This was before Domestic Science, in wihch you learned to cook real food, became Food Technology, in which you learn to make a cake from cornflakes and melted chocolate, then write a year-long project for GCSE about its nutritional value and how you would market it.  

One day, Mrs Gough taught us to make bread, but because there were so many of us in the class, some had to put their loaves on the middle shelf.  Half-way through the cooking, I noticed that Pauline Brown's loaf, at the top of the oven, was rising triumphantly whereas mine, in the middle, was as flat as Norfolk.  I opened the oven and switched them over.  Pauline, if you're reading, I'm really sorry about your loaf, and while I'm here, I also apologise about the chocolate cake and the cheese souffle.

Pauline thought it was just as well she was predicted As in all her other subjects.


Mrs Gough had a tongue as sharp as mustard and wasn't known for her tact.  This led to one of those 'wish-floor-would-open-up' moments that one always remembers and which still make your stomach flip with emotion.  (Serious 'miserable-childhood' incident coming up.  Fetch a Kleenex.)

I may have hinted before that I wasn't brought up in the kind of domestic environment that encouraged or taught basic cleanliness. Daily routines such as face-washing and teeth-cleaning were not established, let's just leave it at that.

Mrs Gough was responsible for teaching us Personal Hygiene.  In one lesson, she addressed my class of 15 year old girls (the boys were segregated from us and sent to learn woodwork in preparation for their lives as postmen, store managers and bus drivers).  She said, 'Girls, why do we wash our faces in the mornings?'  I put my hand up and offered, 'To wash the dirt off, Miss?' and she said, her eyebrows raised in horror, 'Wash the dirt off?  Wash the dirt off?  One hopes one did that the night before!'  All the other girls laughed and I felt shame begin at my toes and make its insidious way up to the burning face which I hid behind my hands.

So, Mrs Gough did teach me how to make pastry that puffs like a dream around a pile of stewed apple and blackberry, but she also taught me never to make assumptions about the kids I teach and what their home lives are like.

Back to funny stuff before we all go and find razors.

The other incident I recall was during our O'level D.S. exam.  We were making soup, and one girl had chosen to do tomato, but when she put it in the liquidiser, the lid came off mid-whizz and the soup sprayed up and out of it at full pelt, splatting the walls and ceiling.  It looked like a scene from a Tarantino movie, and it nearly was one when Mrs Gough came over and saw the carnage, not helped by the maniacal screaming of the girl whose O'level in Soup was at risk.

My soup was fine.  This may have been because I switched my liquidiser for Pauline Brown's, but I honestly can't remember the details ...


Pauline wasn't sure how she'd started off with a delicate green pea soup recipe and ended up with this.  







21 comments:

  1. My mother once forgot to check on the split pea soup in the pressure cooker & it ended up on the ceiling!!

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    1. You know, there are people who would look at that, call it innovative kitchen decor and nominate it for a prize. It takes all sorts.

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  2. Do schools still teach personal hygiene and cooking anymore? I don't think public schools do.

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    1. Cooking, yes, although to varying extents. Hygiene ... well, I've never been asked to teach it, although I've had to address other topics such as sex education and alcohol/drugs as part of my pastoral 'tutor' role at school. I would rather teach Shakespeare, for which I'm properly qualified, though.

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  3. Good old Pauline. Everyone needs a culinary patsy.

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    1. I owe her a lot. She just doesn't know it.

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  4. Oh Fran, do you think you'll ever come across Pauline Brown again ?

    I did domestic science in my first year of secondary school with an ancient teacher. My mum sent me in with the flour & sugar in the same bag to make a Victoria Sandwich cake ... so of course I couldn't cream the butter & sugar !

    I remember making Welsh Rarebit... I ordered some recently for lunch & it was horrible !
    Mrs Barnes taught needlework & wore tweed suits & woollen stockings. By my second year, the school caught up with modern life & girls were offered woodwork & metal work so I switched. Likewise some boys switched to needlework & cookery !

    I made a metal shoehorn which was so rough it ripped tights when used !

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    1. I made a pair of trousers the wrong way up in Needlework, so they were meant to be flares but ended up as jodhpurs. Craft just isn't my thing. I love your shoehorn story - sounds like something I'd have made.

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    2. I think my mother still has it ! She definitely has a far superior one my brother made in copper & thinks it's the one I made. I'm too honest & can't take credit for his masterpiece.
      Jodhpurs came in after flares so you were way ahead fashion wise !

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    3. You know me .... always way ahead, fashion-wise .....

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  5. I was also not "brought up in the kind of domestic environment that encouraged or taught basic cleanliness". I didn't even know what deodorant was until I had my first proper job and two of the older girls took me aside and taught me things my mother should have. We had a bath every Saturday night. 'nuff said.
    Anyway, in Home economics classes we learned to dry clean our school ties, make hospital corners on a bed sheet and we learned to cook such things as Apple Crisp and Sponge Cake. No real food that could be eaten at dinner.
    If you remember your sponge cake lesson, you'll know that sponge batter must go into a hot oven immediately. We were a class of 17 girls with only six ovens. And the teacher laughed at us over our dishwashing methods.

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    1. I also remember being taught that you shouldn't slam an oven door when you open it to check your sponge cake or souffle or it will go flat immediately. Mrs Gough was dead right on that one.

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    2. I have accidentally slammed an oven door on a sponge and it was fine. Not the teacher's recipe though, one I found in my mum's old cookbook.

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    3. Don't try it with a souffle.

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  6. I went to a private school in which only the bottom stream (of three) was taught to sew, cook or type. The rest of us had to work these things out for ourselves, which is why I have to gee myself up and have a stiff cup of coffee before using a sewing machine.

    And it did not prepare me for teaching in a comprehensive school, when I was surprised that children sometimes lost their books. How can a book get lost, I wondered? Then I had three children myself and found out. And some of these children came from really big families in small houses. Hmm. Education comes in different forms.

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    1. We never stop learning. That's one of the things I've realised. Very often, the kids know more than I do in all sorts of areas, and it's one of the things that makes teaching exciting. (Most of the time.....) Don't even get me started on all the words I use which they now tell me are Victorian phrases.

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  7. I heard that Pauline was so mortified by the soup screw up that she became a prostitute to feed her heroin addiction.

    Love,
    Janie, who always looks at the bright side of life

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    1. I hope no one exchanged her pure heroin for something cheap and filled with washing powder.

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  8. I'm consumed with envy . We didn't have cookery . There wasn't really time since we had so many R.E. and Bible classes .
    We all left school expecting manna to drop from Heaven .

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    1. one of the young PE teachers doubled up & taught RE... I loved seeing her in real clothes not tracksuits !

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