The nation’s favourite chef – why mums will always be the best

Nigella, Jamie, Delia – at one time or another they have all been declared as the nation’s favourite chef. But in reality, we have always had the same number one. Our mothers.

It doesn’t matter if their speciality is a painstakingly prepared roast dinner or the dubious “baked bean surprise”. There’s nothing as comforting or reassuring as your mum’s cooking.

Some of it lies in the food itself. Warm golden soup, magically produced from the remnants of yesterday’s chicken; miraculously crispy roast potatoes which you’ve never been able to match, even after years of experimenting with goose fat and dripping and olive oil; steak and kidney pies, oozing with gravy. And of course, the desserts, especially Victoria sponges, filled with jam and buttercream and covered in icing sugar, twice as high as you could ever hope to make them.

Mum's perfect chocolate cake

Yet delicious as they all are, much of it lies in the memories. I loved standing on tip toe waiting to lick cake mixture off the spoon, or donning an apron three sizes too big and being allowed to cut out biscuits, even if I never could do it as neatly as mum.

But until recently homemade food was looked down upon.  “Shop-bought” cakes were the pinnacle of respectability, and the rough edges of a homemade pie looked passe next to the perfect shape of a pre-packaged one. Now though, the twin forces of the credit crunch and a turkey-twizzler-wielding  Jamie Oliver are sending us scuttling back to our mothers’ neatly- typed recipes, and homecooking is suddenly in vogue.

Except it turns out all those hours spent eating cake mixture and cutting out biscuits may not have rubbed off on us as much as we’d hoped. We are struggling to make the leap back from pasta and pesto to steak and kidney pie.

According to a new survey, we are losing the basic skills integral to traditional homecooking. In the ‘70s, two-thirds of women could make gravy from scratch compared with one-third today, and half of them knew how to make shortcrust pastry without needing a recipe. It’s just 16 per cent now.

All this has the “shame on you” faction running for the burning torches. If the supper you’ve whipped up after a long day at work doesn’t simultaneously save money, the planet and your children’s health then you may as well hand in the Cath Kidston apron now. Sensible as a frugal, healthy and downright old-fashioned approach to food is, there’s nothing to gain from turning it into yet another stick with which to beat  already over-stretched mums.

With a full-time job and errant children, it’s hard enough to get something half-decent on the table without trying to perform lamb cawl and bara brith gymnastics. We should preserve the things our mothers taught us, but it’s unrealistic to pretend we can still do them every day. Better to save the Cath Kidston apron and the  weighing scales for weekends.

So, this Mother’s Day, rather than feel guilty for not being Delia as well as Karren Brady, go and take refuge in a slice of your mum’s cake. Or take her a slice of yours – but don’t beat yourself up if it’s only half the height

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3 responses to “The nation’s favourite chef – why mums will always be the best

  1. Ooh! I never imagined that I would be one of only 16% that could do something!xxx

  2. Does that mean that even less men know how to do shortcrust? I do!

    Lovely piece. Don’t have kids myself, but it is true that parents get a hard time for choosing quick options. All very well for Jamie and his lot to complain, but they are actually full time food professionals, so of course they should be making home made everyday.

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