A childhood challenge
As a kid, I remember an experience that I feel stood me in good stead for my later years. I was probably 14 or so at the time, my fellow chefs a couple of years older.
My brother, my cousin Catherine and I were together tasked with conjuring up a three course meal within a budget. The meal would, all being well, be eaten by ourselves and our respective parents (seven of us in total). And I vaguely remember the budget being a lavish £45, wine included (for the olds only, natch).
Our responsibilities would include everything: deciding on the dishes to be served, procurement of the ingredients, preparation and cooking, setting of the table, eating (nom) and washing up. No help whatsoever from the olds. The meal would include a starter, a main, pudding (not dessert—the meal was to be served at my aunt and uncle’s house in Cleckheaton), together with coffee and mints. This was the eighties, after all.
I cannot recall a single element of what was conjured up that day, 25 or so years ago. (I suspect that the mints served were After Eights. Or Matchsticks. This was the eighties, after all.)
But I do remember the emotions of the day, as well as certain logistical aspects: the sense of teamwork, the sense of challenge at staying within budget, the need to time things accurately to avoid long waits between courses, the desire to please, and, in the end, the sense of achievement. I remember shuttling between the dining room and the kitchen, in an attempt to align eating progress with cooking progress. And I remember relishing the sense of responsibility that I was being afforded.
I have no idea why I’m sharing the story, apart from to say that all kids should be set a similar challenge. It teaches some very positive life skills, and provides for an experience that might be remembered 25 years later.