It must be a hard life, traipsing around pubs in the middle of the day, but that’s the lengths Age UK’s charitable staff is going to in Somerset to draft members for their cookery courses for older men.
According to Jane Lewthwaite, a community development office for the charity, the nine men currently attending the cookery classes are either caring for their ailing wives or are already widowers. The senior citizens are borne of an era where ‘kitchens [were] foreign territory‘ and they had little knowledge of appliances, let alone thinking to put on oven gloves to extract the products that they are now unbelievably baking from the stove.
The initiative has come from the local elderly gentlemen themselves who expressed the desire to fend for themselves, should the need arise – as it does now for those attending the Backwell school cookery courses near Bristol. On that basis, the charity took the men at their word and the cookery classes were launched some three years hence.
Although the men were keen to cook, the charity has reported that there was a feeling of resistance due to intimidation about joining any of the other local cookery schools. However, with the added assistance from pupils of the Backwell school, like sixteen year old Nat Fudge who is an aspiring chef himself, the pensioners are chalking up the disciplines one by one and becoming dab-hands themselves.
Mike Wadge, who, at 68, is the whipper-snapper of the current crop seniority chefs, proudly produced an orange and almond sponge, risen to perfection, incredulity in his exclamation, “I’ve baked a cake!”. He went on to explain that his wife would hardly believe it; given that only a few weeks hence, he hardly knew how to turn an oven on, you got the feeling that he didn’t believe it, either.
There has been a rise in popularity of this type of ‘new-old man’ cookery course over the last five years as Age UK’s health and well being program, Fit as a Fiddle, with a side order of help from Lottery funding, has sought to instil the belief in senior citizens that age is no barrier to learning new skills.
In the face of organisations like Meals on Wheels facing debilitating cuts to their budget, the cookery classes have sprung up all over the country out necessity, it certainly being the mother of invention for Mike Wadge and is surprisingly excellent cakes and the rest of the gang learning to cook long after they’ve started to draw their pensions.
Okay, so you maybe can’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs, but you can certainly teach your grandfather to cook ’em.