A group of 20 or so 13-year-olds may not be the most enthusiastic set of cookery pupils. Or at least that’s what I thought. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’d been asked by our local secondary school to show a group of design technology students – in just one lesson – how to make fresh pasta. I decided that mixing and kneading pasta dough for 15 minutes probably wasn’t the thing that would float their boat, so I took along a batch of fresh dough (“here’s one I made earlier” – I’ve always wanted to say that) and focused instead on getting the kids to think about what we could fill the pasta with.
On our bench we had an array of ingredients: ricotta, garlic, fresh sea bass, cherry tomatoes, king prawns, herbs, parmesan, clams, Parma ham…lovely things, things you might not expect a school cookery lesson to be based on. I demonstrated to the eager watchers the principles of making ravioli, and then it was over to them. And do you know what? These young people were brilliant. I was really impressed by how thoughtfully and creatively they approached the task. Fillings of sea bass and clams; ricotta, roasted tomato and Parma ham were exceptional. And their enthusiasm surprised me: when the bell went for breaktime, most pupils wanted to stay in the classroom to cook some more. Even I learned a thing or two!
It all goes to show that interest in good food starts early. As an Italian, that goes without saying, but to see such enthusiasm amongst this group of British youngsters was gratifying. Maybe one or more of them will go on to become chefs? But it’s enough that they go on to learn how to recognise good ingredients and to be able to put good, fresh, healthy food on the table. Of course, if the dishes are Italian, that’s a bonus!