Thursday, 10 April 2014

Student SOS

Student SOS- It's time to get cooking!

This year has been quite a quiet year in our house. Last October the eldest child, our firstborn, left home, and went off to university. She left an empty bed, a half empty wardrobe, a spare car on the drive, four siblings a Mum and Dad.  

From then on, our house was slightly quieter. It would’t have mattered which of the children had left, but just having one less, makes a huge difference! It's not that she's a particularly noisy either, it's just that from the moment she left, there was one less person in the house. Our eldest was, and  probably still is, a chatty one, who loves music and plays the piano!  Enough said!

Soon, our second eldest will decide to apply to college or university, then the third in line, the fourth, and so on and on!  As parents we try our best to provide them with all that they need to succeed and survive away from home. We raise them, feed them, nurture them and hope that they will be capable, confident, self sufficient young human beings!

As babies we feed them and cuddle them, as toddlers we let them bang saucepan lids and mess up the living room floor with a myriad of colourful plastic pieces. Then comes the jigsaws, duplo, the lego, cutting and sticking, paint pots and papier-mâché. By the time they reach secondary school the splat mat, the high chair, the toy basket are long gone, and have been replaced by stereos, ipads, ipods, and other gadgets that serve no purpose to me!! Trips to the football club, the rugby ground, ballet, cycling clubs become the norm, and lets not forget about piano, guitar, and flute lessons! 

In these chaotic years of family activity, we sometimes rarely have time to cook elaborate meals for ourselves, and often overlook the need to introduce little ones to the basics of home cooking. Thankfully, although a generation or two have been deprived from the opportunity of knowing and understanding about food, the tide has most definitely turned. With the emergence of an enormous number of cookery and food related programs on TV, the youngsters of today are well informed if not well practiced! 

As a keen baker, My eldest was introduced to the excitement of baking cakes and cookies when she was knee high to a grass hopper! I would carry her round the kitchen on my left arm and, when the time was right, she'd perch on the worktop, wooden spoon in hand to help with mixing. These were in the days before small Ikea children's tables and chairs! It was also when we were ruled by common sense, and not a fear of health and safety! 

As Aimee sat mixing I would have my hip wedging her legs tightly to the worktop to prevent any sudden movements, falls and disasters. Not ideal I know, but at least she know how to mix and fold before she could read with any competence! Just seeing, copying and repeating familiar recipes, is a great basis on which to build and to develop further, as their interest and ability increase.  Cooking is like learning to ride a bike; it's mostly about confidence and practice and, once you can do it, you can do it for life. 

Now, despite being over 100+ miles away, I have no doubt that Aimee is eating reasonably well. I don't imagine that her bin is housing too many pot noodles and take away pizza boxes. It's so good to leave home with the ability to cook, to be able to eat a varied diet which doesn't cost the earth. In fact, during a recent conversation with Aimee, I learned that some students live on bowls full of porridge three of four times a day, others on just vegetables and water, and another on pasta , pasta, pasta. It’s not all bad, it’s just not ideal. I’ve no doubt that they will survive, but they could be healthier! Incorporating a few greens and other fruit and veg, and having a little variation in their diet would really improve things. As would being aware of carbohydrates and proteins, and other food groups and the effect that different foods have on the body.

Next week, I'll be visiting a local Secondary School to offer help advice and easy recipes for the Sixth Formers who will soon, like Aimee, leave for university. It's never too late, even with a few months to go. It's easy to pick up a few crucial recipes and ideas that will see them through their first few months away from home. Sometimes, it's just a matter of remembering what you already know, making a very simple list of favourite meals and how to cook them.  A quick list of snacks and puddings, and what to keep in the store cupboard for emergencies! 

So, if you're a student thinking of going away, keep a record of your favourite family meals and learn how to make them. If you're a Mum, a Dad, a Grandma or a Grandad, start doing the same, and write your treasured family recipes down for the younger generation to enjoy and take away with them. For a great student gift at the end if the summer, buy some of the ingredients they may need for the recipes; it's a great start to have a full cupboard at the beginning of term.  

There are a quite a few months to go yet, and just a few exams to pass in the meantime, but it's good to prepare and to plan ahead, especially if there's a few practice days and rehearsals needed first! Well, it's off to help the lucky ones at QE High this week, I'll let you know how I, and they get on! 

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