How I got started cooking at age 12

How did I get started cooking when I was 12? Well, I literally had no choice, considering my electives during my Grade 7 school year were (1) Family Living (girl and boy body parts, puberty, etc.), (2) Metal Class, (3) Woodworking (where my sister nearly lost a finger), (4) Sewing, and finally (5) Cooking class.

So the decision wasn’t that difficult: a three-legged table or apple crisp? I choose the cooking class.

My junior high school memories are grey: smelly classes, ineffectual teachers, and generally being misbehaved. Yet, in Cooking class, I had the chance to make and eat something, which broke up the stupendous dullness of Geography (we called it Geograph-Free because the teacher didn’t do anything and expected the same from us).

By contrast, the Cooking classroom was a well-ordered space. Drawers pulled out to reveal black outlines drawn inside showing where to put measuring cups after they were washed and dried. There was a full-functioning teacher at the front of the room demonstrating how to peel an apple, how to test if the butter was soft enough, and don’t forget to preheat your oven.

Then magically, about 40 minutes later, the timer went off, we removed pans from the oven, and there was apple crisp for two. We served it with whipped cream, couldn’t wait until it was cool enough, the whipped cream instead melting into white soup.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. In the middle of my grim junior high school years, there’s this little bit of sunshine — warm apple crisp in a tiny portion. It makes enough to share, but I’ve also eaten leftovers cold for breakfast!

I still remember that feeling of accomplishment, at age 12, and it was pretty fabulous. As the eldest of four girls, I believe I promptly went home and announced that I knew how to cook, and made up a double batch to share with my sisters.

And now I’ve replicated this entire event many times in my adult life, including this past weekend. Peel a few apples after dinner, mix up the crunchy topping, put it in the oven, breathe deeply as the house fills with the smell of apple and cinnamon. Since it’s the weekend we can open some wine, then take the apple crisp out of the oven, let it cool a bit, but I still can’t wait long enough. Serve with fresh whipped cream flavoured with a bit of vanilla.

[Photo credits: Kris Brandhagen]


Apple Crisp for Two

(original recipe from Shelley’s Grade 7 cooking class, Gorsebrook School, Halifax, Nova Scotia)

2 cups (500 mL) Macintosh apples, peeled, cored & sliced (approx. 2 med. apples)
½ cup (125 mL) brown sugar
¼ (60 mL) cup flour
¼ (60 mL) cup rolled oats
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) cinnamon
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) nutmeg
3 tablespoons (45 mL) soft butter

Grease a rectangular bread (loaf) pan. Put the apples in the bottom of the pan. Mix the other ingredients in a small bowl, and sprinkle on top of the apples. Make sure no apples are showing (or they’ll burn). Cook @ 350°F (180°C, gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes.


As always, I’d love to hear your feedback. Just hit reply to this email and drop me a line 🙂 You can always reach me at shelley@oneroastchicken.com

Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu,  Owner & Head Chef
www.oneroastchicken.com

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