Sunday, 5 July 2009

How I learnt to cook

The dog-eared and much used, Good Housekeeping's Children's Cook Book.

Basic but necessary recipes...

Step by step how to make tea and coffee...

The formative recipe for my future culinary career.

It doesn't exactly look 'al dente' does it?

I always comb my hair before I cook. Not.

I had a little record player like this in red, bought with my 'National' savings...16 pounds from Woolworths.

When I was four years old I had two revelatory experiences; the first was that I realised I was shit-hot at 'colouring in', leading to a love affair with the visual arts. The second was when our class got to make Chocolate Butterfly Cakes. I remember the feeling of joy and accomplishment at producing something so clever (cutting the top off and making it into 'wings') and delicious. I took my chocolate butterfly cake home to show my mum. The little cake was shared between the five in our family.
I developed an obsession with making cakes; getting up early before nursery school, to make mixes with flour, butter and sugar. This was halted rather rudely when I put the mix into a red plastic bowl which dripped all over the hot oven. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was no longer allowed to fly solo on the cake-making front.
I continued to cook as a child and as a teenager. From my Saturday job in WH Smiths I reserved a part of my wages to buy the million-part series cooking magazine 'Supercook'. I made a Sunday lunch for the family, after three months into the subscription, from Supercook recipes; everything began with 'C': Cabbage, Chestnut stuffing, Chicken, Chocolate mousse.
Unfortunately my culinary education remained incomplete as, turning into a rebellious teenager, I just stopped turning up to my Saturday job, so I could only cook dishes up till the letter 'R'.
It's taken me a while to learn recipes from the rest of the alphabet. I really do need a copy of the Larousse Gastronomique.


  1. Oh yes, Supercook! do you know I still have the entire hard back book set. And still use two recipes: the brownies (cakier than usual brownies, I like them just as tray back chocolate cakes) and the Barbecued Ribs.

    I learnt to cook from the Cordon Bleu magazines, which, like you, I saved up for each week. I wish I still had them really just for their retro value :)

  2. what i would give to have been into cooking when i was little. i would have nowhere near as much catching up to do now.

  3. I love hearing about how other people learnt to cook, I didn't really learn until my mum taught me a 101 things to do with mince before I went to university.

    I also had a Saturday job at W H Smith but used my wages to buy beer.

  4. I love old cookery books and am also slightly envious that you had that record player. I always wanted one!

  5. When I moved out of the parental home I "borrowed" the entire Supercook bound collection.

    We still argue to this day about who should have custody rights.

  6. I had my Supercook collection up to the letter R until about a year ago but I realised they were covered in booklice so had to chuck!
    The photography in Supercook was so 70s, all brown earthenware and glycerine painted on the food to make it look shiny...

  7. Ah, happy days! (BTW, you should hang on to that book - prob worth a small fortune now...)

    Chocolate butterfly cakes - yup, I'm pretty sure they were my revelatory moment, too!

  8. Did you ever do any courses or has it all been self taught and from books? xxx

  9. Never done a cooking lesson in my life. I mostly learnt by
    a) eating
    b) sitting around in the kitchen's of the mother's of the different French boyfriends I have had and watching closely.Yes I have fucked A LOT of Frenchmen.
    c) from my mum and Italian great grandmother d)not at all from my English grandmother who was the world's worst cook (would put ketchup on spaghetti yuk)
    d) Videojug

  10. Look at all the money I could have saved on cookery school if only you'd blogged about that book earlier.

    I could have bought 12 million bags of monster munch or something similar and of equal necessity.

    I hope the guilt eats you alive devil woman.

  11. Well Neil, you've only got yourself to blame for being hooked on that atomic cuisine or whatever that new fangled stuff is called...personally I would have spent the money on a bag full of fizzy liquorice not monster munch.
    Shuna of eggbeater fame has strong feelings about catering college/cooking courses.
    Personally I think there is nothing like repetition/working in a kitchen for long hours but culinary school can certainly help!

  12. I love you and I want to be your best friend. I am not dangerous in any way. It's important to add that bit.

  13. Non working monkey: the feeling is mutual xxx

  14. Love your collection of vintage cooking books, fab old food styling! xx

  15. Hi MsMarmite, that's an amazing post. It was lovely meeting you today at the piano - I thought I recognized the url on your card,and thanks for the twitter photo.

  16. I seem to remember my first cooking attempts were via Blue Peter. Mostly my mum taught me to cook for which I am eternally grateful. Wow you were pretty serious buying that Supercook series. I'd love to try your cupcakes sometime ...filled with marmite lol??


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