A literary genius friend of mine recently gave me some advice!

“You *need* to get all these (stories) down, you know, observations on your life!”

So here is one short tale, from another life-time, in which our heroine was a 12 year old un-domestic non-goddess.

Domestic Scince

Fado, Fado, when I was in first year in secondary school, one of the mandatory subjects on my curriculum was Domestic Science, aka Home Economics (usage of nomenclature verbosity dependent, tongue firmly prodding cheek).

Now, my interaction with a cooker to-date had been fairly limited; in fact, the only “culinary experience” that springs to mind prior to this point, was my attempt to cook my father’s dinner – which consisted of 1 x Pork Chop and 1 x Onion, to be fried, in one frying pan until translucent (ie the opposite to charcoal).  The Pork chop went ok, ish.  However, mid way through cooking the onion, I decided I needed la toilette.  Off went I, and promptly fell into some kind of romantic reverie (it’s a pre-teenage thing) and completely forgot about said onion.  God knows how many minutes later, I descended to the kitchen to find a frying FLAMBE of flames and promptly fled screaming out the door into the front garden, from whence I spotted a new, as yet unknown neighbour, out mowing his lawn.

“Hey you with the lawnmower” (well how do you address a stranger neighbour to whom you’ve never been introduced.  He looked over at my screaming pre-teenage self, all tonsils and wildly waving arms (all very Animal off the Muppet Show) and came running over #OurHero.  “It’s on fire, it’s on fire” screams I, and in he ran, #Braveheart, grabbed the pan and running back outside promptly flung it down onto the grass!  “They looked like nice mushrooms” he quipped, before heading off back to his mowing.

Mushrooms!!  Now that kind of tells you how far beyond translucent the onion had gone!  A sign of things to come?

So, back to secondary school and the Home Ec class.  Now our class of 30 odd pupils (all girl Catholic Convent School, no shoes or boys allowed) were divided in two for HE.  15 little treasures were allocated to the “oh so young and lovely” Mrs Magee.  The other 15 head-bangers were allocated to the Margot Leadbetter meets Margaret Thatcher of the Kitchen – cue Jaws theme-music, “MRS LILLIS”!

Margot Leadbetter

Now Mrs Lillis was what you might call a “prim conservative type”, her tight perm being a coiffed symbol of her uptight nature.   Tight dyed blonde curls, small dark piercing eyes, and a snarl to match a bulldog.  Personally, I think this was a “dramatis persona” long ago conceived and cultivated over time, to achieve a desired effect on hormone infused thick as plank teens, and, that underneath the neat white day coat, she was more Nigella Lawson that we were led to believe!.

Now the routine went as follows: Knitting & Sewing versus Cookery on alternating weeks.  The Knitting and Sewing class was a  whole different ball game, and would probably in itself make a soap opera to rival Corrie.

This particular week was the turn of Cookery class and the recipe in question was “Shepherd’s Pie”.  Now I don’t know how familiar you are with Shepherd’s Pie, but it is essentially minced beef and onion, in gravy, topped with mash and cooked off in an oven.  Simples?  Well, you’d think so wouldn’t you!  UM, gulp.

Shepherds Pie

I was paired off in class with my then new BF Jackie and so we set to the task of browning, seasoning, frying and so forth.  First hiatus, we added too much tomato puree (are you sure it said on Tablespoon?), and our nice browned beef was looking decidedly sun burnt.  Then, having as yet to be introduced to the notion of “liquid density” we set about making the gravy, only to get the consistency more watery than the Norfolk Fens.  We are now looking at a bright red puddle “inna” dish in which our merry little mincers are in freestyle merriment.  (* “inna” nod to the l8 gr8t TP).

In a final insult to the legacy of Fanny Craddock, we tackled the mash, and the mash lost.  You know that term “lumpy” well, this was decidedly “knobbly in a hilly kinda way”.

There was nothing for it but to get on with it.  We put the mash aboard the mince, and there it floated, bobbing about like Titanic Tuberous icebergs.

We kept trying to push it down, and all we got was “scarlet overspill”.  So we gave up, our “mince” was firmly cooked.

We needed to brown off the potato in the oven, but the ovens were gas, and I came from the world of electricity and couldn’t get ours to light.  Over came Mrs Lillis, and took that “clickety flame lighter” gizmo from me, and in she went, head first into the cavernous oven.  “Vump” – lights, camera, action.  But when Mrs Lillis surfaced, the front perimeter of her hair (that neat, tight, primly perfect hair) was singed to a burnt blonde strawness.  Oh dear, cue teenage girls trying not to giggle.

Old Gas Oven

We shoved the pie in when she was gone, it having been hidden behind Jackie’s back, thereby deferring the moment of doom.



So I did, and plopped it down on the table in front of her.  What the woman didn’t know was that it was straight out of the oven, and, what I didn’t know was the power of heated earthenware.  Piping hot earthenware on oilcloth equals “meltdown”. The dish had burnt a Jesus hole straight through, it had melted all the plastic.  I can’t remember exactly what was said, but it was quite the tongue-lashing, and the punishment?  Barred from the next cookery class! #Punishment?? Who are you kidding?  I had to do an hour of study, alone, in a room – which for an only child is pretty much life as you know it.

To this day, I have never again attempted to make Shepherd’s Pie.  I have no doubt that I could make a reasonable stab at it, but to be honest, the scarlet slip-sloppetty, gelatinous gunge of an image that has a firm place in my memory, has pretty much turned me off ever wanting to go there.

And so there you have a wee memory from one of the most hilarious cookery classes in the history of T1.  I hope you enjoyed reading it, as much as I enjoyed recalling it.

Poor Mrs Lillis.  What she had to put up with.  No wonder her hair was so tight, probably curled up with tension!

And so adieu…I’ll leave with this musical nod to the world of the “kitchen”.  You will NEVER find me in the kitchen at parties!!


2 thoughts on “Sorry Mrs Lillis…

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