the age of eleven, that's many years ago, I was enrolled
in Callington Grammar school, in darkest Cornwall.
I have to say it was a perfectly fine school with
dedicated if somewhat eccentric teachers and a generally
It did however stick to many of the traditions of
the day. Sports and metal work teachers tended to
have a military background and short manly nicknames
that they fondly thought the pupils wished to call
them . . . Skip, Gunner and Pip are three that come
to mind. They also included in their lessons a ritual
humiliation and jovial sadism that no doubt was supposed
to be good for our character but was something I could
never see much fun in. The result was that I, which
was a first for a male student, opted to take lessons
in domestic science rather than metalwork or woodwork.
A long way from the classroom Jonathan now
runs amazing cooking holidays in Italy .
. . read more
science had nothing scientific about it but the class
was all girls, apart from my friend Cobb and I, which
was just fine by me.
Our first lesson was hardly challenging. The menu
was beans on toast and cocoa. Each pair of aspirant
cooks had a work surface, sink and gas stove. After
successfully getting the beans out of the can and
into a pan, the milk into another pan and the already
sliced bread under the grill I couldn't help thinking
this was all just too easy, and in the same way that
the first officer on the Titanic might have nonchalantly
called for some ice, I asked Cobb to look for some
plates for our meal.
he crouched down to look in the cupboards next to
the stove a number of things started to happen in
quick succession. First, realising that the beans
were, to put it mildly, over cooked, I tried to scrape
them off the bottom of the pan, not noticing that
the milk was on the point of boiling over and that
the already smoking toast had burst into flames.
or perhaps not, our teacher had spotted the situation
and strode purposely over to take control of the situation.
What she could not have realised was that one of us
(we both later blamed the other) had managed
to switch on the gas oven without lighting it. The
pressure of the gas slightly pushing open the oven
might have been the lit rings on the top or a piece
of falling, incandescent toast but the oven chose
that moment to explode setting light to Miss Pendragon's
light blue and white check house coat, which went
up in a sheet of flame leaving molten plastic stuck
to her clothes, arms and nyloned legs. The force of
the blast also knocked the cupboard off hitting Cobb's
head momentarily stunning him so he was in no condition
to avoid the boiling milk that now jumped off the
stove . . . it did spring him back into consciousness
quite quickly though!
what I still believe to be great presence of mind
I doused both thoroughly with a bucket of water that
had previously been used for cleaning the floor but
I am saddened to say was never thanked by either of
Arthur ~ chef and cooking vacation organiser
. . there are more to come!