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To think Michel Roux Jr is living in cloud-cuckoo land...

(18 Posts)
wol1968 Tue 20-Oct-15 15:54:44

...if he thinks there was some bygone golden age when all mothers (not parents - mothers hmm) taught their daughters how to cook wonderful cheap nourishing healthy meals. (Just to add to the general celebrity-chef-bashing mood grin)

Now I can't say anything about France, Italy or Spain, but in the UK cooking skills were far from universal. In the 19th century, if you were rich you had a cook and several other domestic staff, if you were lower-middle-class you had a maid of all work, or if you were single and had a city job there were all sorts of pie-houses or chop-houses or street markets at the right time of day (yes, I've read Judith Flanders). Basically, domestic cookery, unassisted by servants, was only an everyday affair for a small section of the population until after WW1 when the market for domestic service collapsed. And there was a very short period of time just before and just after WWII when significant numbers of women had sufficient time on their hands to invest in time cooking family meals themselves.

Before that, the cooking that poorer people had to do themselves was mostly soups, stews, dumplings and whatever bread they could scrape together, and I bet it wouldn't have figured in any family recipe book. It was survival stuff. And it's worth pointing out that malnutrition was commonplace in those families. Not sure I buy the idea that all was rosy in the prewar French or Italian working-class kitchen either, but I'm prepared to be enlightened...

laffymeal Tue 20-Oct-15 16:09:13

Your post is very reasonable and informative. YANBU but I don't know much about it, but thanks anyway for the interesting information.

Michel Roux deserves a wedgie for singling out "mothers", dick.

OurBlanche Tue 20-Oct-15 16:21:36

Given that he is a man who reveres his mother as the font of all cookery knowledge but has worked in professional kitchens run by his dad and uncle, I suspect his comments are based on his own experiences.

To be fair, most people of his (my) age were brought up in households in which women cooked.

Also, continuing to be fair, he doesn't discriminate against women in his kitchens, see Monica Galetti, and the bottom of that article suggests he is fairly on point regarding disabilities too.

Maybe, just maybe, he was speaking from his heart and, if you replace 'mother' with 'parent of your choice and according to your own childhood' the piece will be less irritating. After all, he is a chef, not an uberPC world leader/bringer of peace!

LookingUpAtTheStars Tue 20-Oct-15 16:22:08

My nan's cooking skills were shocking. Frozen food was her saviour. She used to say that it's hard to learn how to cook as a child when there's no food to eat.

My mum wasn't a good cook and neither am I, although I think I'm more adventurous than my mum or nan were.

Bumbledumb Tue 20-Oct-15 16:22:12

"Now I can't say anything about France, Italy or Spain"

I had a reprint of the first edition of La Cucina Italiana from 1929 included with the magazine (probably because it was 75 years old at that point) and one of the lead articles was bemoaning the fact that culinary tradition was being lost and young people were not learning from their mothers and grandmothers.

Some things never change.

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Tue 20-Oct-15 16:22:15

Haven't read the article in the link but I come from a long line of working/lower middle class Scots and every woman in my family going back at least to my great-great-grandmother could cook the basics - porridge, soup, stew, some sort of baked stuff (whatever your cooker could do, basically), simple puddings. The poorest of my ancestors did go hungry at times but most of them made it to adult life and lived to draw a pension. So in my family it is true that cooking skills were passed down the generations.

Of course, until very recently there was absolutely no alternative. Out in the countryside no ready meals beyond a few tinned goods, no fast food, no money to eat out even if there was a place where you could do it. In the cities there might be a pie or chip shop but again you needed money to shop there. If you couldn't cook you'd starve or get ill from living on bread and marge. And of course some cooking ability was expected when a man was looking for a wife. smile

TPel Tue 20-Oct-15 16:29:19

Maybe skills aren't being passed on, but the popularity of cooking programmes and the volume of cookery books being launched - and I assume sold- would suggest that cooking is very important in the UK.

We may not eat and cook as other nations, but I think we are far more adept, experimental and adventurous than previous generations.

M4blues Tue 20-Oct-15 16:43:29

Well I'm 45 and cannot cook for toffee. My mother did all meal stuff as my father never did but I never ever remember joining in it even watching. She worked full time long hours in a professional job though so it was always a rushed affair. I remember always being hungry after school as we had to wait until dinner was prepared and made.

When is All this imparting of knowledge supposed to take place? I am p/t about to go f/t and will probably batch cook at weekends when the boys are at rugby or piano. I am resigned to 3 days out of 7 being convenience food as I will be picking up 4 children at 5.30/6pm and rushing to get something down them and get HW done before bed routine then marking. Am I excused because I have 3 boys though? wink <hides baby dd in a cupboard>

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Tue 20-Oct-15 16:59:17

When does it happen?

When I was very young my mum didn't work outside the home, so I suppose I picked up a lot from just being in the kitchen when she was doing things.

Later even though she was teaching part-time she was always home before 5pm and so was I, so I saw what she was doing and often had to help with peeling potatoes and other kitchenmaid-type stuff.

At weekends and in the holidays I suppose she taught me quite a few basic things, such as how to cook mince (a vital Scottish skill!), simple cake making (ditto), principles of steaming a pudding and so on and so forth.

I did also have a year of Domestic Science at school when I learned to make shortcrust pastry and a white sauce, which have stood me in good stead in the subsequent 40 years. smile The scone recipe we were taught there was awful, though. My mum's are much better.

Dawndonnaagain Tue 20-Oct-15 17:17:36

Dorothy Hartley's Food in England is a fascinating history of food and cooking.

Roux is a dick, I cooked from the age of seven, learnt from my Grandmother because mother was a lazy arse.

I do think Domestic Science at school should be taught in a more efficient and hands on manner than it is now.

R0nJ0n Tue 20-Oct-15 17:32:27

My maternal great grandmother didn't cook, she was lower middle class but well enough off to have someone to cook for her most of the time. My grandmother couldn't cook because she'd never learned form her mother, my grandfather was a very fussy eater, only ate a few things so they all lived on eggs, toast and tinned soup, although when microwave meals came along my grandmother embraced them whole heartedly. My mother can't cook because she grew up on tinned soup and toast, she buys lots of waitrose ready prepared food.

My paternal grandmother also grew up with servants, in fact she was from a properly pre war upper class background and I suspect no one would have dreamt of teaching her to cook. She was in her mid forties when my father was born and by the time he reached his teens she had given up cooking altogether and told him if he wanted to eat hot food he had to learn to cook, which he did. My dad is now in his sixties (and divorced from my mother) and although he's never worked in the profession he now has the kitchen skills of a Michelin starred chef, and he taught me to cook.

M4blues Tue 20-Oct-15 17:56:55

But my only dd us 1yrs old and about to go to nursery f/t. I will drop her at 8 and pick her up at 6. She will have eaten tea at nursery. In that 1hour or so before bath and bed I will be semi supervising HW of the older ones whilst trying to cook as quickly as possible to feed the older 3 whilst also getting one wash out and another in. This is how people live nowadays. I'm not sure when cooking skills can be taught. Weekends are jam packed with activities too. If we want young adults to be able to cook then it needs to be taught effectively at senior school.

trollkonor Tue 20-Oct-15 18:09:00

He needs to set up a campaign to encourage Fathers to cook balanced healthy family meals then. Its like anything with two working parents, it's a job that's easier shared.

Both my parents could cook and got my brothers and me cooking from a young age.

PlymouthMaid1 Tue 20-Oct-15 18:12:07

It's a shame he has said something so daft as I do think he is lovely in general. Proper cookery lessons need reintroducing to school. Additionally I think a lot of the problem is general ignorance especially around food and budgeting. I learned a little at school and even less from my own Mum but taught myself to cook from Delias Cookery course when I left home. Before my daughters left home I spent a few evening with them when I was cooking dinner teaching them the basics and since they are both capable of reading, they are now both becoming confident cooks.

There is no real excuse for not learning to cook other than 'can't be bothered' - most of the things I make after work take around 30 minutes. But Mr Roux - it's not just the problem of women even though in many households women are still considered to be the ones making decisions on food.

Lightbulbon Tue 20-Oct-15 18:22:04

My mum thinks she can cook but frying a slab of meat and over boiling potatoes and veg is hardly a great skill!

She always just shooed me out of the kitchen anyway as I was 'getting in her way'.

She did buy me delias book though- that's where I learned the basic from.

trollkonor Tue 20-Oct-15 18:22:44

I'm a 70s child and my home ed was pretty cood as we learnt basic techniques from 12. Like different pastries, raising agents etc

FifteenFortyNine Tue 20-Oct-15 18:29:01

I agree with his comments about unhealthy eating habits and moderation. So no I don't think he's living in cloud cuckoo land. obviously he's not a great historian. and obviously his comments are coloured by his own life.

RB68 Tue 20-Oct-15 18:29:22

My Mother was useless at cooking and hated it and yet my grandmother was a cook! Mum never really ate properly as a child so never bothered to learn. Cooking following a recipe is easy BUT you have to pay attention. I don't like cooking generally but love baking. I can cook and enjoy special occasion cooking but you need the right tools and practice does make perfect. Interestingly I have liked cooking better and had better results now I have an Aga style cooker and you don't have to wait for things to warm up and you cook by looking at the food not 20 minutes at whatever temp ie you have to pay attention to it

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