Mary Berry, the doyen of AGA and all things home baking, has been that a lady I have grown up with through both my education and my career. She is a lady I hold in high regard and when I first met her I realised that she was just that, a real lady. Her mannerisms, how she conducts herself and her words make her such a kind and beautiful human being.
Mary has been known within AGA for a lot more years than I. She has been a great friend of AGA and a few years back at an AGA Demonstrators conference she addressed us as the after dinner speaker. I remember Mary telling us that she trained at the Le Cordon Bleu Cookery Schools, one of which I first worked at when I moved to London. I remember Mary’s work actually trained me when I was taking my A-Level Home Economics back in Portadown College all those years ago; I was taught with Mary Berry’s “Cookery in Colour” – one of the first ever cookery books that was filled with colour pictures. Now, please be careful, I’m not that old. I am in fact just 34! But Mary’s work has featured heavily in my career. She has written over 70 cookbooks which is incredible. I have written 8 so far and I know the amount of writing, research and testing that is involved. The AGA Book that is still shipped with every AGA purchased is written by Mary. In my world it is the ‘other’ Bible.
Last night the first episode of the new series of “The Great British Bake Off” was screened. I do love that series and the way that Mary has used it to encourage British people to get back to baking. However, last week I found an article in the Telegraph.
I have to say I agree in one way and not in another. Yes cookery in schools is a nice idea but what will the students learn? I find with cooking at school (and many cookery schools at that) they just teach recipes. It is more just like teaching a nursery rhyme like “Jack and Jill went up the hill“. Not that useful.
However, I feel that teaching food skills is much more important. For example, teaching the process of ‘rubbing in’ teaches the students how to make pastry, bread, pasta, crumble and some cakes. Teaching the application of heat with food teaches roasting, baking, grilling, frying, stir-frying etc. A little bit of nutrition goes a long way. Simply learning what is good for you and what is not so good will help the avoidance of junk food (hopefully) and give the student the opportunity to know a skill for life that is a healthy balanced diet. My mum is a home economics teacher and has taught this for years. She taught me well but the theory of this is not necessarily for all. It’s a subject dear to my heart that I have adopted as my profession as Home Economics.
Jamie Oliver has worked on this for years, I applaud him. Mary has taught countless families and individuals with her kind manner on TV, in the press and in her books how to cook well and live full happy lives with great diets.
Mary, thank you for taking this stand and bringing the attention of the nations health to the fore, especially in a time of legacy for our country after the Olympics. My work with the International Federation for Home Economics across the globe has been working on this for years. Home Economics Victoria in Australia do similar work in schools, advising teachers, modernising the curriculum and promoting that great book “Cookery the Australian Way“. Likewise my colleagues in The Ontario Home Economics Association, Canada.
I urge the global Governments to talk to people like Mary Berry and myself and to learn from us. We all need to understand that food is not just for cooking and that it is there as a life skill. Home Economics dovetails into many other subjects and like English and Mathematics it’s one we all need through life.
Home Economics is not cooking. It’s life skills, it’s about factors that affect a household in terms of food, clothing, shelter, energy. In essence what comes into a house and what goes from it. Chefs’ are not trained this life skill. Celebrity Chefs have the media (after all Jamie Oliver is reported as wanting to have Brad Pitt play him but Mary and I and the global home economics associations ARE the ones to help teach this important area of education.