The Duke - February 18, 2015

Cooking up a treat during a home economics lesson at Calder High School as the 80s turned into the 90s were Gayle Hughes, Michelle Cure and Sally Edmondson.
Cooking up a treat during a home economics lesson at Calder High School as the 80s turned into the 90s were Gayle Hughes, Michelle Cure and Sally Edmondson.
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Back in my day school exams were frightening and dull – in fact they were frighteningly dull.

They were O or A Levels rather than GCSEs and there were no added stars or S bits thrown in for excitement and suspense.

At my old fashioned all boys grammar school we studied what today would be classed as core (or bore) subjects.

Even the delights of art and music were reserved for pupils likely to do well in maths, chemistry, physics and French (firmly ruling me out) – as a kind of reward.

The “all boys” bit – and the fact that this was back in the unliberated 1960s – meant that the potentially more interesting aspects of “home economics” and “domestic science” were no-go areas.

For that reason – and because I was quite keen on still being considered for the house rugby team – I never liked to confess to my classmates that I knew a thing or two about cooking.

Well someone had to put the dinner on while Mother Dearest finished her day job – and dad certainly wasn’t going to do it.

Unlike these more enlightened days, if you were a teenage male it just wasn’t cool to cook.

So I was rather pleased to discover there is now a GCSE in food preparation and nutrition. It joins the recently polished up qualifications in citizenship studies, drama and religious studies (things have certainly changed since my “divinity” lessons with Mr Nettleship!)

There’s nothing half-baked about the modern food prep studies. Among other things pupils will learn how to fillet a fish, portion a chicken and make hollandaise sauce in an attempt to promote healthy eating and teach practical skills.

That’s all before they start blanching, braising, poaching and roasting.

Can’t you just hear the “just another soft option” lobby already sharpening their (kitchen) knives?

But before anyone fears exams will consist of questions such as: Select which of these ingredients is essential for boiling an egg? (a) an egg (b) a potato (c) a rump steak, think again.

Ironically, concern is already being expressed in some quarters that the course will actually prove too hard for the average 14 to 16-year-olds brought up on Heinz ketchup and brown HP rather than béchamel and veloute sauces and more familiar with a McDonald’s burger than a boeuf bourguignon?

But let’s give the youngsters fortunate enough to attend an establishment running the course the benefit of the doubt shall we and hope that the lessons are kept practical and fun – and what they learn will help forge a slimmer, trimmer and healthier future generation?

As for those relatively few O Levels I achieved (five passes in two attempts – the very minimum required to continue onto the giddy heights of A Levels) it seems I should now adjust them. Apparently the work-hunting over 50s are removing references to O Levels from their CVs to give them a better chance of getting job interviews.

Since age discrimination is now outlawed by legislation, sneaky employers (well, the ones who have passed maths at least) are using the presence of O Levels rather than GCSEs as a way of establishing the age of applicants before interviewing them.

To make matters worse you can spend hours or even days trying to craft the perfect CV only to discover recent research has revealed employers spend an average of just 8.8 seconds reviewing each one they receive.

That’s excluding the CVs binned even quicker for the cardinal sins of bad grammar, spelling mistakes, poor formatting, being longer than two pages, adopting jargon or a casual tone, wandering from the subject or using an unusual font style/size.

Thank goodness I’m retired.

What is ‘moderation’ when it comes to alcohol?

I’m writing this with a glass of chilled sparkling water by my side while The Manager is celebrating in the pub with some of her mates.

It seems she has read in her Daily Wail that drinking alcohol is only good for you if you are a woman over 65. So to celebrate and make up for lost time, she and some of the Ladies Who Binge are necking their way to a longer life.

You can’t have failed to notice that certain tabloid newspapers love to publish 
 Alcohol Is Good For You surveys closely followed (usually when you return from the supermarket weighed down with cheap booze) by Alcohol Is Bad For You ones.

The Manager is firmly on the side of the good news while regularly keeping me posted about the bad news.

Amazingly there are 
currently more than 50 
studies suggesting alcohol in moderation (I had to look 
up the meaning of that 
word) benefits heart health and may even protect against cancer.

The trouble is that “moderation” – even for 
women aged 65 or over – is just 10 units or less per week. That’s seven small glasses of wine before you start
 reducing your chance of croaking rather than choking.

Men it seems are doomed – largely because we still order copious pints rather than requesting a “unit” or even knowing what one is.