Evidence that Fran did perhaps learn something at school after all
Mrs Gough taught me to cook at the Warwickshire grammar school I attended in the 1970s. I think they called her subject 'Domestic Science' officially but it was 'Cookery' to all of us.
Now the subject is called Food Technology or Food Science or How to Grow Up Without Knowing How to Make A Stew. There is cookery involved, but there's also much scientific theory, assessment of nutrition, costing of dishes, market research, and other sub-topics that Mrs Gough would have sniffed at. The science, in 1976, was what the boys did, while the girls cooked them steaming sausage rolls to give out at break time in the hope of an invitation to the school disco to snog behind the school hall curtains.
|It's amazing what a 14 year old boy will do for a free savoury bite|
No, Mrs Gough was all about the pastry - puff, buttery rough puff, tough puff, shortcrust, longcrust, flaky, tough-flaky, choux buns and eclairs, puffy and otherwise.
She was all about the bread - white bread, wholemeal bread, seedy bread and seedless, loaves and rolls and twists and turns and bread risen so high it stuck to the roof of the oven.
She taught us how to make soups, and stews, and casseroles, and pies, pies, so many pies, and how to mash potatoes to perdition so that they fluffed up creamy and delicious.
She showed us how to chop and slice and peel and dice, once, twice and thrice.
I was not Mrs Gough's ideal student. My skills have improved over the years, but at fourteen, from a dysfunctional home, I'd learned to spread jam on a dry Weetabix and make fish paste sandwiches on Mum's bad days. On her good days, she'd let me chop mushrooms for her while she stirred a stew but when I asked for the recipe, she'd tell me it would go to her grave with her, which it did, far too soon.
'What are you DOING, girl?' Mrs Gough would yell to me across the school kitchens. 'You're making a SOUP, not a SWAMP! Add more stock!'
|Fran's soups contained unexpected ingredients|
'How many times have I said, DON'T slam the oven door while the cake is in there?'
'This isn't choux pastry! This is glue! The Art Department would kill for glue like this!'
Once, I noticed, on looking in the ovens where two loaves were cooking, that mine - on the middle shelf - was not rising, whereas my schoolmate's - on the top shelf - was. I opened the oven door and swapped them round, receiving rare praise from Mrs G later on my impressively-domed bread.
I've felt guilty about that over the years. Sorry, Jackie Smith, that your loaf was sunken in the middle as though someone had sat in it.
Forty-five years later, being in the kitchen with a glass of wine, the radio on and a selection of meat and herbs and vegetables with which to invent something tasty - that's my happy place. So, even though I did try Mrs Gough's patience with my early fumbling attempts at choux buns or a vegetable casserole, her lessons have left their mark.
I don't think I've slammed an oven door on a cake since 1976, at least.