Made in Hackney speaks to 83 year-old Patrick Harte, Woodberry Down resident and regular participant on our International Cuisine course at the Redmond Community Centre.
MIH: What first attracted you to attend cookery lessons with Made in Hackney?
P: When my wife died last year I found myself needing to prepare meals for the first time without any experience. I had never done any cooking before as my wife had banned me from the kitchen. When I was growing up in Ireland, it was the women who cooked while the men worked on the farm. So I’d previously had no interest in cooking and have had to adjust to learning to do a little bit, not much though, just a little bit. It was my son who found out about the cookery sessions. My sons are good cooks and encouraged me to attend.
â€¨MIH: What kept you coming back to more classes?
P: I must have been to over 30 cookery sessions by now! I enjoy the great atmosphere, team spirit and harmony - and the teachers are very understanding. I have cataracts and can't read so well but there is always somebody willing to help me. The classes are very friendly and easygoing. There's no pressure, it's not like, 'Get this or that done,' but rather, 'Could you do this?’ After the meal is prepared, I appreciate having the opportunity to sit and eat with the group and tasting the food that I’ve helped to prepare. It’s very relaxing and a good opportunity to chat. I’ve found meeting new people very interesting, finding out about where they come from and their traditions. It broadens the mind - it's not just about cooking alone. I’ve also had to opportunity to try new foods.
MIH: Do you feel your cookery skills have improved?
P: I’ve learned some practical cooking skills such as the importance of washing hands and cleaning our kitchen surroundings. I have prepared fruit and veg that I previously had no experience of. In particular, I found peeling a pumpkin very challenging (!) but it helped me develop knife skills. You've got to watch your fingers, otherwise one could end up in the food and you’d be left with only four! I also appreciated learning how to bake bread. I'd never seen bread baked before, all that mixing and stretching, making it like elastic. It's quite interesting to learn. It's a lengthy process to prepare it but quick to eat!
MIH: Are you more likely to use healthier ingredients in your meals now?
P: I do still buy ready meals from time to time but they are not often sustaining enough and don't contain enough veg. You need your greens and there's not a lot in ready meals. I have been cooking my own potatoes and veg to supplement the ready meals.
MIH: Anything you’d like to add?
P: I’d just like to add that I really value the fact I’ve made quite a few friends at the sessions. People from the local community and from abroad as well. It’s a good way to connect with people who live in your community - that is important. Thank You to Made in Hackney for making it possible.
If you live in the Woodberry Down area and would like to attend an International Cuisine course email us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
For the full program of MIH classes go to www.madeinhackney.org/whats-on/