On a visit to a working museum set in an old copper mine complex brought some very unexpected pleasures and experiences. After the obligatory rid on the train down into the bowels of the earth – well a few hundred metres anyway, we came back up and took the trourist route to see what the rest of the barns contained. Amongst the predictable grocery store exhibits of original food packages and tins and old washing dollies etc were some more interesting ones like the history of chocolate, with a chance to make a lolly each. Then there was the bread roll making . . . delicious. That prompted some of us to take advantage of a cookery session to be booked there and then. From that began an interest in other cookery courses and great fun has been had by all of us who now meet up on a regular basis every few months at other culinary education episodes!
Oh the fun of a birthday treat – afternoon tea out at a local emporium or up to town for a super swish extravaganza. The prices these days do rather dictate the programme of events. The local tea room will offer a full size tea and buns, not necessarily the most sophisticated fare, but good honest home made grub. All for around £12.00 a head. The London set with their vintage themese will set you back around £30 to £70 a head.
I attended an AT for a very aged relative recently – at a smart local outlet. The poor old dear was far less interested in the food – in fact she hardly looked at anything, it just went down the hatch with the same lack of interest as her care home dinners. It was the gorgeous vintage chinaware that caught her eye. Beautiful floral tea cups and matching pot and milk jug. So elegant and worth the trouble of the car parking episode!
I have been very fortunate in the past few years in terms of having acquired some really lovely pieces of crockery and chinaware from various relatives. Having helped empty the bungalows of two aged relatives as they transferred into care homes, the painful task was slightly cheered by having the chance to take home those much loved items seen so many times during family visits.
There is something really touching about being able to take afternoon tea from the same beautiful rose patterned fine bone china cups and saucers, the hot brew poured from the elegant teapot. Ok, it drips a little, but a carefully placed tissue sees to that. The only other way to get hold of these gorgeous artefacts is to tray and sources them online via several excellent sites that dedicate themselves to obtaining and merchandising fine china, porcelain and retro kitchenware.
Cookery workshops are a relatively new idea for joint gatherings like hen parties and girlie functions. A couple of former colleagues in a previous existence were recently moving from a company to start up their own enterprise and instead of a leaving gift each, they requested a contribution towards a cookery workshop specialising in afternoon tea presentations. They gained a wealth of information and it proved so much more to them than the face value of the voucher itself. They are now happily starting their second quarter in the afternoon teas sector of catering.
The choice online is fantastic these days – it is possible to pick every single discipline of the chef’s exetensive repertooire. As the name suggests, a workshop gives an overview of what is required in say, fish cookery – being encouraged to try naming, selecting, skinning and boning a whole fish and then getting down to cooking it correctly before serving.
A distant cousin was getting married the other year. Plans had been announced a good 2 years before the big day – save the date texts received all round. Time aplenty for getting help with wedding present ideas – cookery workshop perhaps, some kitchenware to complement . . . . . Eventually the real business kicked in. Invites to the wedding and reception for the inner set, invites to the evening do only for the outer set. Then the stag dos were organised and of course, the bride’s hen parties.
Cookery with high end chocolate workshops was one of the choices in our case. Fantastic fun, a professional chocolatier had batches of chocolate ready made and we watched in awe as he flashed brilliant skills and inspiration aplenty for bride and hens to take away. This idea had been sourced online from a site dedicated to themed workshops – they offered fish cookery, variations on vegetable presentation etc. Fantastic, not just for hens!
One very noticeable change has happened in the high street in the town next to mine. At once time there were lots of charity shops and the odd stationers and newspaper outlets. I noticed the other week that there are lots more shops of general interest, household goods and particularly kitchen goods and anything to do with baking.
This is a most cheerful improvement to what was turning into a drab and soulless high street. There has to be a wide variety of goods to bring interest. The pubs and restaurants are still there and it needs new visitors to maintain the cashflow in the area. The rise in popularit for all things connected with kitchens has come about from the number of tv programmes on maintstrem and lifestyle channels. Competitions aside, there is no excuse for not being able to knock up a quick meal these days – help and products are online 24/7.
There was a gathering of senior ladies in our village the other evening. A veritable group they were too. The function was an twice yearly get together of local village groups belonging to a well known national federation specifically for women. This national organisation has been going over 100 years and some of the village groups will be celebrating their own centenary next year. This will require much partying and the origins of their need to set up and become such a wonderfully inspiring organisation will definitely come to the fore once more.
There will be more cakes made, jam jars filled, cookery groups etc. than you might imagine. The wealth of experience in each group is unmatched elsewhere. Talking to some of the seniors the other evening was fantastic, they are so up on what’s currently trending in cookware and kitchenware. This is the generation to be selling to as well as their grand children!
Back in the 1960s this family went to a local secondary school that was brand new – so new that we had to wait for the developers to get off site before the first class could entere the segregated playgrounds. I was a very nervous new entrant to big school.
One bright light in this tunnel of doom was the domestic science block that had been provided with a school flat for learning all there was about housework. The cookery classes were conducted in one of two fantastically modern and well equipped kitchens each set out in 6 kitchenette work stations – the left hand side all had gleaming gas cookers, the other side all electric. A heated cabinet for drying tea towels also doubled as the bread proving cabinet. I loved my Home Economics classes and although never a master chef, I learned enough in those weekly lessons to stand me in very good stead throughout my adult years!
A niece was getting married a year or so ago. Invites were received in good time and then came an unexpected additional one, to take part in some of the activities for the hen party(s). This phenomenon from the States, requires the bridesmaids to arrange a series of events for the bride’s closest confidantes. Gone are the days when a table was booked at the local pizza parlour and a simply fab time was had by all. No, nowadays it is a major competitive exercise to outdo all the previous hen parties known to womankind.
This particular series, over two days, offered home spa sessions, a chocolate working experience, lunch out at a pizza house, african drumming, photo shoot and finally dinner out at an up market Italian place. All sessions were paid for by each acceptee. The chocolate session at a good local establishment was best fun. Good idea for other party themes.
There is a plethera of home restyling programmes on the tv just at the moment. These range from the basic formula of showing a couple around a nice cottage or house in the country as they are now thoroughly disenchanted with city living, right up through various stages to the full on buying a property at auction and doing it up completely and we see the results and the rise in value as a result.
In every case, it seems that the conventional kitchen that would have satisfied the domestic goddess in years gone by is now totally unsatisfactory and the world needs that kitchen the size of a football pitch. Unless there is a very useful worktop or island unit immediately next door to the wall mounted big oven and microwave, then there is much time and energy spent moving food about.