Saturday, 6 March 2010

Cooking, cooking

I know I’m the biggest sucker out for the buying of countless glossy, well-illustrated and photographed cookbooks, but the cookbook I rely on most, and is my true bible, is my well-worn, dirty (with cooking smears), yellowed school copy of the Central Cookery Book, by AC Irvine, a late “mistress of domestic science” with our Tasmanian Education Department.

In what was, in the good old days of 1961, called E Class (first year high school) at Huonville High, the sexes were firmly separated, with all the girls being forced into Home Economics and Sewing, and the boys into Woodwork and Metalwork. No ‘ifs’ ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’ about it.

If you were a girl, you completed at least one year of cooking and sewing before you were expected to choose which career path you would take and select one of 3 pathways at the end of first year high school: professional (where you learnt French and German along with the standard Maths, English, Science and Social Studies); commercial (where you learnt typing and shorthand, along with the standard Maths, English, Science and Social Studies); or a course called Secondary, which meant you did a bit of everything but at a lower level, and you got to leave school in your third year of high school with a Secondary Certificate in your hand, which obviously wasn’t as high a qualification as the full four year high school Schools Board Certificate.

We were all issued with our Central Cookery Book at the start of E Class, and the boring year of cooking began. Each week was alternated, so Home Ec one week was a double period of sewing, then the next week it was the double period of cooking.

I dreaded the sewing more, as I detested it then, and still detest it to this day. But the cooking class, despite having a pathetic teacher with absolutely no passion for her product whatsoever, and being so totally rigid in her cooking style, still managed to make me feel like I was in that place to stay – and life has proved that to me ever since.

Using the Central Cookery Book as her guide, our teacher took us through the rigours of recipes I had never heard of before (and haven’t since, I must say!) like Scotch Collops! Who the hell gets off on a dish of Scotch Collops? Who the hell would KNOW about them, unless you went to high school in Tassie in the 60’s?

Whatever – it was in this space that I learnt, as all girls in that era did, skills it was deemed necessary for girls to have in order for their future husbands and children to benefit from having a wife and mother suitably trained!

The Central Cookery Book contains the most valuable information ever. It is especially good to flick through when you want ideas for paring back a recipe to taste the true flavour of today’s excellent products. Remembering that the author of this tome, AC Irvine, was ‘late’ when I was at high school, she obviously was from the previous century when she scribed the cookbook so you really are looking at recipes from the 1800’s in Tasmania when you read it.

I don’t know if they still print this gem, but if you ever see a copy at a garage sale, or in a bookshop, as Molly Meldrum says, do yourself as favour, and buy it. I reckon you’ll get a modicum of use from it, as from the latest Jamie Oliver!

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

haha that made me laugh. Well it might have been 1996-2001 and not 1961, when I was in highschool in Scotland.(So not that long ago).
Boy's and girls had to do mandatory home economics, first project was to make an apron.......if you didnt have this done you could not do the cooking lessons. Boys and girls had to cook and sew. Yes some boys did sew their aprons to their school jumpers most hilarious. Or ask us girls when teacher wasnt looking to tie thier aprons for them.
But...........we boy's and girl's had to do mandatory technical drawing and wood work too. First thing you had to make was a t-towel holder from your own design and from scratch.So we helped the boys in cookery and they helped us out in woodwork(which I admit I was rubbish at). But atleast we got the chance to experience both. So it ment every single pupil knew how to cook proper food and how to build a bed or a garden bench if need be lol.

AnnieH said...

Hi Rita, I too had a similar experience as you although I was at Claremont High School from 1970. The book I had was called Approach to Cookery - like your cookbook it is the most used book out of all my recipes - infact it naturally drops open to the most used recipe - scones! I loved reading your blog - it was/is very refreshing.

Tassiegal said...

I saw the Central Cookery book in Ellis and Hawker the other day I am sure! Was looking at buying it....

Whitey said...

Another mention for you in today's Mercury. I hope they pay you for that.

Rita said...

Hi Anon 4.01 - lovely to hear your school Home Ec story too. Obviously the decade or two between our schooling saw a bit of enlightenment in that the sexes were allowed to mix!
Great that you learnt the different skills. It would have come in very handy in my life to know more about the woodwork/metalwork aspects of life.
Glad you found my blog Annie H, and a warm Rita welcome to you. I haven't heard of Approach to Cookery, but if it's anything like my Central Cookery Book, you won't let it out of your sight!
TG - hopefully you did indeed see it in Ellison Hawker. If you're into buying cookbooks, you could do a lot worse than buying it.
Hi Whitey - long time, no hear. I'm overjoyed you are still present in blogland. The payment for this publicity is that, short of publishing my phone number, there is precious little of mystery (or anonymity) now about Rita!

Anonomouse said...

Speaking of bloggers, what are your opinions on free meals from restaurants if they recognize you? I don't know whether it has been discussed here. New article for you Rita... A Code of Ethics for Bloggers. LOL!

Now, I'll take my 10% of the royalties; all major credit cards accepted...

Rita said...

Hi Anon 10.49 - there is indeed already a Food Bloggers Code of Ethics:
which I think I follow reasonably well to the letter, but in Hobart, in reality, the freeble doesn't occur.

A restaurant is a business like anywhere else, and at the end of the day need to make just as much profit as any other business, so there's no way they can afford such a luxury, even if I myself wanted to accept such favours. In fact, the reason I have (tried to) kept my true identity away from the Rita identity was sheerly so I could be as anonymous as possible whilst eating out, so I would in fact experience what any middle-aged, innocuous-looking person would experience when they ate at a restaurant.

I have never had a freebie based sheerly on the fact that I am a food blogger. I have had many freebies from friends who know me well, and provide something extra to my meal if I'm eating there: like adding something they've been experimenting with at that particular time and get me to taste it and give an opinion, or add an extra course to the meal, or just send out something extra from the kitchen with their compliments, but never a whole bill scrapped just because someone wants a good writeup, and never from someone I haven't already known.

My good friend Steve Cumper is a prime example here. Steve and I communicate at least once per week for a minimum time of 30 mins. We are truly good friends. I have eaten at Steve's restaurant countless times: because he's a friend, because I like to keep up with his menu and what he's doing, because I love his food, and because if I'm going out to eat I'd rather give the money I am prepared to spend to someone I know deserves it and should have it. But I have never had a freebie from Steve. I have had something extra (not ordered) sent out unexpectedly from the kitchen between courses but never the bill torn up and thrown away. I don't expect that, and it should never happen, or I'd loose my credibility with myself, and feel I had been 'bought'.

I must admit, it makes it harder for someone to do what would usually happen in this situation (where you know someone dining in your restaurant) - you usually get waitstaff to take a free drink to your friend, but with me not drinking, the obvious choice is to send food!

Christina said...

I'm on my second copy of the central cookery book.
I never had the pleasure of using it at school but my Mum had a copy which was put to very good use.
I then bought myself my blue covered copy and literally used it to death once I left home.
My second copy, which is at least 15 years old, is spiral bound with a protective coating so hopefully will be with me for good.
I refer back to it time and time again, and now so do my daughters.
Money well spent on a cook book I'd say. Yes you can still buy it too.

Nice write up yesterday Rita. How I laughed at all the info they provided and wondered how you'd feel about that.
Need not print the phone number. With all that back ground, we can look it up in the phonebook now!

Anonymous said...

graeme phillips virtually copied Steve's apple orchard post from a few weeks back in todays sunday tasmanian-i thought he was a journalist with his own ideas for a story?

Bill said...

Hi Rita, Wow, this post brought back memories. It was the early 60s at Eric Reece High in Devonport. I was in E4 and told the headmaster, Rex Batt, that I wanted to be a chef, so, could I do Home Ecconomics (I still don't know what that means.) But, Rex said, "You're a boy!" Ten out of ten for old Rex. While he was making up his mind I studied the very textbook you speak of. And then I discovered the world of cookbooks. I was the only 12 year old in Devonport with his own copy of Larousse!
Sadly, it was all too much for the Tasmanian education system. Try as I might I had to do welding instead. Eventually I became a chef and I can tell you I'm a dab hand with an oxy torch for my creme caramels.
Love your site. Keep up the great work!
Bill H.

lemon curd said...

I had a central cookery book in Home Ec in 1996/1997! Helped me win 2 (read that - two) CWA cookery awards (buffs fingernails).

Have been thinking a lot lately, just how beneficial it would have been to have learnt how to julienne a carrot or make a perfect stock over perfecting the art of pineapple upside down cakes...