School’s out…

I also recall doing some cookery at my primary school. I have no idea what the purpose of it all was. I think it was probably our teacher being ‘creative’. But there we were one day with Mr. Mercer’s camping gas stove in the classroom, pre Risk assessment days clearly! We produced a frying pan’s worth of sausages and a large bowl of Cadbury’s Smash potatoes. Cadbury’s Smash – convenience food gone stark raving bonkers! But the advert was great. I reckon it was akin to the stuff my Dad used to get served in the war. He often regaled my brother and I with tales of porridge and powdered eggs. I couldn’t get my head round the latter. But I guess Cadbury’s Smash must have come close to that ersatz food of World War 2. I still remember the two dinner ladies at my primary school, the gentle Mrs Jones and the formidable Mrs Almond. She looked about 90 and scared the living day lights out of me. She always wore a black felt hat with a fake diamanté brooch, even in summer. Her catch phrase was, ‘Be sharp! Be sharp!’ which she would screech at us like a demented parrot. Her sole aim seemed to be to get us out of the dining hall as quickly as possible. I vaguely remember the food. It was not good. The potatoes were always lumpy and the gravy always coagulated instantly on your plate and formed an odd skin. The food was better at my secondary school. However, in my early days I didn’t eat too much as I was running a profitable business selling my dinner tickets to hungry sixth formers who wanted another lunch or to children who had lost or forgotten their tickets. Sadly, I got rumbled by Doc Urwin, a scary figure right out of a Mervyn Peake novel, and I had to go straight. When I was at my primary school I often used to go home for lunch and I remember having a gorgeous lamb stew with pearl barley at a friend’s house. Mrs Booker was a curious lady, old before her time, and I was fascinated that she always wore what were called house coats I think- a sort of apron cum coat. Anyway, she was another wonderful cook and that mutton chop stew, (I now realise it was mutton, a much under used cut) was delectable. Her house seemed to permanently smell of stews. I can’t imagine many folk these days popping on such a stew the moment they awake. Unless they use a slow cooker possibly. But she must have had to get up early to prepare it all. I can still see that amazing gravy with the bubbles caused by the fat from the lamb. Another lady on our road, Mrs. Crewe, made her own lemonade and she would call my friends and I in on hot days to serve us tall glasses of the stuff. We played football in the road, not many cars in the sixties and you could hear them coming. We especially looked forward to the mobile green grocer van. He would let us hop on the back and take a short ride up the road. Then he would give us a handful of pea pods each which we would eat as we walked back to resume our game. On a Sunday my dad would call us all in to get a hunk of bread we would dip in the meat juices of the beef as it roasted. Phenomenal. Dad was a great believer in letting nothing go to waste. He even drank the water from the cooked cabbage, said it had all the vitamins in. And we often had dripping on toast either for tea on a Sunday or later on in the week. If you have never tried it you must. He poured the juices that were left over from roasting the joint into a white stone pot, then popped it in the fridge. Later you would lift off the white fat that had set to reveal this marvelous brown jelly which, spread on hot toast, was hard to beat.

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