Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Day I Went Back to School with Innocent & GIY

Going to school is an experience you generally never want to repeat.  The smell of PE kit, the well intended knitting projects (it was a frog that doubled as a pincushion, honest), nature walks and generally wanting to keep moving to the next class, the next school and generally being older than you actually were. Looking back now after a few, ok a decade or three, years, I wonder why I was ever in such a rush. I went to a mixed primary school in Bray called St. Fergals which began as what would now be commonly known as a start-up in the two parochial rooms in Queen of Peace, where my Mum bribed me with a mini KitKat to get into class on time.  I actually really enjoyed school when I was little, particularly my teachers Miss Maguire, Mrs. Gillespie (who rocks into The Hubs in work every so often to tell him how lovely I was... I love her lots), Ms. Maguire who always caught me messing, and Mr. Dodd who went to school with my Dad and therefore had my instant respect. School back in the days of black and white was rather fun.  I always loved reading and singing, two things that make me happy to this day.  Cookery, to be honest, had no interest for me.  I was a child of the '70's where the most exotic thing we consumed was Vesta Risotto or Beef Curry.

It's amazing how things change and now great people at Innocent and GIY have set up a brilliant campaign getting kids to participate in their Sow and Grow Campaign.  They asked me if I was interested in doing a demo in a school near to where I live, and I agreed, subject to it being a school where one of the Childerbeasts was being educated.  I was giddy with glee when I found out that St. Fergal's was taking part and growing basil, and I was going there to give a demo to the 6th class. You've no idea how giddy I was!

I arrived at St. Fergal's on time and felt terribly old to be meeted and greeted by two of the pupils from Mr. Enright's class (he used to teach Little Sis, god help him) who guided me down the long and winding corridors to the Science room where I met up with Jane and Conor from Innocent who were currying favour with the kids by handing out free smoothies. Talk about bribing the audience! My plan was to wow them by showing them how to make a Caprese Salad using the basil which they were growing.  This is where it got funny.  A room full of 12 year olds stared me out of it and made plenty of sarky comments including "I don't eat tomatoes Miss".  Really?  Do you eat ketchup?  That's made of tomatoes. Same went for the non mozzarella eaters who adored pizzas!  Luckily I had brought a basket of heirloom tomatoes and some wonderful buffalo mozzarella and bocconcini from Avoca Foodhall in Monkstown which stopped them in their tracks.  I was taking special requests for what colour tomato to slice up next - Nathan loved the yellow one, which looked really like a lemon. After plenty of chatter about food and chefs in general, the class learned that a blunt knife is a dangerous knife, they must ask an adult to help them in the kitchen, and that both women and men can cook - it's not just a job for Mammies.  We had lots of chat about why a Caprese salad was like the Italian flag, and the best Italian soccer teams and then it was time to make some food. It was wonderful to see the boys and girls get really involved and join me to create their own Caprese Salads to eat back at their chairs. They discovered that not all tomatoes are red, mozzarella doesn't have to be grated and that sea salt is cool because it crumbles into tiny pieces.

I was actually really sad when the demo was over because we all had the most brilliant time - me showing them about new food, and the kids learning about new and delicious flavours including their homegrown basil.  I floated back to the day job on a high, full of inspiration for dinner that night which comprised some great ribeye steaks and a reprise of the stunning Caprese Salad that the class helped me to create earlier that day.

Sincere thanks to Innocent Ireland and GIY for asking me to take part in the campaign. It was, as the kids say, deadly.  Also, sincere thanks to Joe Behan the Principal, Joe Enright and his 6th class for welcoming me back to St. Fergal's for a memorable experience.


  1. Replies
    1. Cindy, it was brilliant. I was having flashbacks walking down the corridor towards my old classroom... scary but fun!