I know I had learned how to cook quite early on as I was preparing elements of meals for all the family as a young teenager, and then I took 'cookery' at secondary school as a subject. Don't think the cookery lessons taught me much except how to make shepherds pie though.
I think I learnt a lot of what I know from simply watching my mum over the years and she has confirmed she didn't ever teach me to cook.
My mother baked when we were growing up...she has since joined the "won't cook, I let Marks and Spencer's cook for me instead" and "I'm a lady who lunches" brigade now (good for her, about time too!). I suppose when we were growing up she had to bake, she had four growing kids (five if you include my dad!) and that was the way you kept your family well fed.
Some of my earliest baking recollections were of my mother (she'll laugh at this!) putting margarine (would have been stork block margarine back then) and sugar in a bowl in front of the (coal) fire to warm up and soften, prior to creaming them with a wooden spoon. She will have been making the 'infamous' walnut cake at the time. Yes there was no central heating, or popping in the microwave for a few seconds, or a kitchen aid mixer to do all the hard work it was all down to wrist power.
I can also remember a big cookery book she had...it was margarine and flour stained, with pages loose and brown with age, it had every recipe you could think of and guidance on every technique you would need, from butchering a lamb to making and icing a two tier fruit wedding cake. I must have studied that book a lot, as I can still remember pages from it now. I think she had bought it new from a 'traveling salesman' for quite a few shillings at the time. I wish I still had that book, it had tales to tell.
From memory my mothers 'specialities' were:
Walnut loaf cake (iced)...legendary...I must try to make this from memory one day soon, here's roughly how it would have looked...
Mince pies (only at Christmas)
Jam puffs (like so but without the garnish)...not my puff...and not my picture this is taken from Google images as a representation.
I can't recall her making much in the line of pastry as I'm sure she has said she isn't 'good at pastry', hence the sausage rolls and jam puffs, which were made with shop bought puff pastry, still lovely though.
Over the years I think I have repaid the 'debt of gratitude' for all the lovely meals and baking...we've had one or two birthday events for my mum over the years where afternoon tea (my favourite meal ever) has been the order of the day.
I think the moral of this little story is quite simple, your kids are watching what you do and are taking it all in, let them get involved all the way along...they are learning life long skills all the time and carrying on family traditions...
AND I really must make my mum a HOMEMADE birthday cake one of these birthdays!
With thanks to my mum x