The Bare Necessities of Life

Typical subscription box

Dear Home Economic teachers

In the 2nd year of the senior school in the 70s, the girls in our school had lessons in cookery and sewing. Boys didn’t do these classes; they did “manly” things like woodwork and metalwork. We did these classes until we were allowed to choose our subjects in year 4 (for all younger than me, that would be your year 10).

My children have found the fact that you, my home economics teachers, thought I was a useless case as far as cooking and sewing quite strange. Dinners for my children were often made from scratch, lunch boxes always had some home baked cakes in and I also cross stitched them an advent calendar which is still in use. So why didn’t I enjoy my lessons at school and did I learn anything?

I have to say that I was looking forward to cookery but Mrs L, I’m afraid you frightened me. Practical things and me don’t seem to get on and your loud shrieking voice did not help whatsoever. I know that we are all different and some people who have teachers speaking in this way helps them but it just gave me butter fingers. It was with great eagerness that I gave up this lesson. When I do bake now, I do find myself remembering something I learned at school: folding the mixture round and cutting through with the metal spoon and also one of my favourites from school, feather icing. I did have teachers later in life though who helped me with my love of cooking: Delia Smith, Mary Berry, Gary Rhodes and Paul Hollywood. I can produce a delicious roast dinner with crunchy but fluffy roast potatoes, lemon drIzzle tray bakes, a quick microwave sponge pudding and when challenged, bake croissants. I hope that I have also taught my children a love of cooking too.

Mrs S, you were my form teacher when I first joined the “big” school and the following year my needlework teacher. You were a very kind teacher and left us to get on with our own devices. I was always good with theory so can still remember the basics of tacking, back stitch and I think I could get by with blanket stitch if the need arose. However, the sewing machine remains a mystery to me and I still can’t cut straight with scissors. I will never be able to make myself a nightie (our first and uncompleted project for me).

So I did take with away some skills, but just like riding a bike or driving a car, these skills are perfected out of the classroom environment. I was able to find what I loved to do and also find that both baking and my cross stitch is my way of relaxing. This weekend it was so satisfying when I piped butter cream onto a whoopie pie, sandwiched it together with another and it looked like the photo of the recipe. It was also satisfying to eat it too!

I’m never going to be a bake-off contestant; perfection is not me! My whoopie pies were not the same size but what does it matter as long as they taste good.

This is the same for my cross stitch although it always looks neat. The most important thing to me in cross stitch is to have the stitches going in the same direction. The back of the cross-stitch isn’t the neatest but who sees the back. I have seen photos of some really neat backs which could actually be the front. I wonder Mrs S, if you would have expected that.

I would like to share the efforts of my weekend with you both. My completed cross stitch kit, a subscription from Cotton and Twine. I treated myself to it in April fully intending to complete it quickly. Four months later, I finally finished it. I don’t tend to frame the completed projects myself but following the instructions carefully, I’m chuffed with the outcome. I even cut it straight.

I can also share the carrot cake whoopie pie photo too; another subscription box from April. I have been too busy to complete.

So whilst I might not have been an ideal student, I am able to cook and sew. For me, the classroom wasn’t the ideal learning place for these skills but I hope that schools do continue to teach these important lessons.

Kind regards

Tina

P.S. I’m glad I didn’t have to do woodwork or metal work

Stitching and baking

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