I was at the flagship service station that is Gloucester Services a couple of weeks back, for the launch of the very excellent Create and Cook
competition. Aimed at year 8 & 9 pupils (that’s ages 11-14 in old money) it’s a great idea cooked up (ooh!) by Min Raisman a former producer of BBC Radio 4’s Food Programme and is admirably supported by the Midcounties Co-operative
, Best of Our Counties who also back Happerley.
The theory is to get young cooks cooking and engaging with their food, particularly the food produced on their doorstep and at different times of the year. The entrants must cook a two-course meal with as much local produce as possible.
I don’t know what the collective noun for cookery teachers might be but it could have been accurately applied to the gathering and lovely company they were too. I was curious to learn if they thought their pupils would be keen to enter the competition? Most agreed that the keener students would approach the challenge with gusto and commitment but for others, success would be measured by less ambitious achievements. Like? ‘Using a whisk maybe - some simply have never seen one, let alone used one before’ ‘Knowing not to put digital scales in the dishwasher’ ‘Making something-anything-from scratch, if every child could do that after my classes I’d be delighted’.
Bear in mind these comments aren’t from teachers at inner-city schools nor are they talking about children in junior school- some of these pupils are teenagers and from Gloucestershire.
Caring about where your food comes from may seem at the most superficial level to be a classic first world problem. ‘Never mind where your food comes from’ people will say ‘there are many who don’t get enough to eat, period.’ And of course, that’s sadly true but to polarise the argument in such a way is to over-simplify. It’s only when we get people to connect and care about their food will they see that it’s a bad idea to shovel junk in. Rubbish in, rubbish out, as the sanitised version goes. Less sugar, less fat, less processed food all equals fewer unhealthy folk, fewer cases of obesity, diabetes and other health problems that ultimately cost the NHS many millions, not to mention the tax that is lost when people aren’t able to work and contribute into our system.
The very fact that you’re reading this means that you’re more likely to be committed to provenance and cherishing our food and those who produce it. To a greater or lesser degree many of those in the food and farming industry get it; the challenge is reaching out to those youngsters who resolutely don’t get it, through no fault of their own. These are kids who’ve never owned a pair of wellies; whose closest encounter with a cow is either beaming back from a phone screen in a game or as part of a Happy Meal, and for whom winning a cookery competition is neither likely nor aspirational.
Caring where your food comes from isn’t an easy sell either to children wedded to screens, teachers challenged by curriculums or parents who weren’t taught themselves. Create and Cook is a brilliant initiative and I’m excited to follow it through to the finals next year but we really can’t expect the school system to take responsibility for all education. We need to all work together and make sure that there are no more lost generations to thinking food comes from those smiling people under the golden arches.
In the meantime, spare a thought for those gallant teachers bridging the gap between kids enjoying home made pasta and those that think linguine would be a good buy from Juventus.
Amanda Cambell, Commuications Manager, Happerley
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Happerley