Last weekend, while In Laval, my parents had asked me to empty up some drawers containing various items dating back to my years as a student. After reluctantly parting ways with DAT and Mini DV cassettes from my first ever reports and segments produced in university and scripts from acting classes, I stumbled upon something I had completely forgotten about: a series of recipes from my secondaire 2 (Quebec’s equivalent of grade 8) home ec class. It was then, during the 1996-1997 school year, that Danielle Langlois was teaching the basics of cooking to École d’éducation internationale de Laval alumni.
The class was divided in two groups. While half of the students were sewing buttons and toques with Anne-Louise Blain, the others were learning the ropes in the kitchen with Danielle Langlois. A couple of weeks later, the groups switched.
My memory was a little fuzzy as to how the class was structured so I asked my friend and fellow blogger Vanessa about it. She reminded me that the class was divided in teams of three to four students. Each class was organized around a theme. We had learned various things like how to bake cookies, prepare eggs benedict or serve up a “Mexican dip”. The recipes were obviously quite basic, but the class introduced us a bit more formally to certain techniques and ingredients.
Revisiting the list of ingredients of certain recipes was sort of like travelling back in time. For instance, trans fat wasn’t an issue on anyone’s radar back in 1997. My fellow classmate and friend Véronique remembers that the chocolate cookie recipe required a specific brand of vegetable shortening that clearly contained trans fat at the time; an ingredient that many of us would steer clear from today.
Blast from the past: a recipe
For the purpose of this blog entry, I revisited the Biscuits à l’avoine de ma grand-mère (grandmother’s oatmeal cookies”) recipe.
- ½ cup of butter or margarine (it actually specified margarine)
- 1 cup of all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. of baking powder
- ½ tsp. of vanilla extract
- ¼ cup of lukewarm water
- ½ cup of granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. of salt
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- ½ tsp. of baking soda
* I added about ½ tsp. of a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander
*I added a good heaping of raisins
- Preheat oven at 375 ° F.
- Beat butter or margarine until creamy. Mix in sugar until blended.
- In another bowl, mix in flour, baking powder, salt and oats.
- Mix baking soda and vanilla extract into the water.
- Combine dry and liquid ingredients to the butter and sugar.
- Roll out the cookie dough until about 3 to 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to make the cookies. (I felt as though this step was labour intensive so I simply scooped out cookies with a spoon.)
- Bake in oven at 375 ° F for about 10-12 minutes.
- Cool and serve.
Without being exceptional, they were decent. I’m glad that I added the raisins and spices for extra flavour.
Some final thoughts
I can still remember my 14 year old self waking up before everyone else Sunday morning to prepare my first-ever batches of muffins or crêpes. I guess the home ec class served its purpose: easing us students into the kitchen and ridding ourselves of any apprehensions that we could have had. While the recipes weren’t particularly adventurous or too difficult, the experience was nonetheless an empowering one.
What were the first dishes you learned how to prepare? Got any home ec or cooking class stories to share? Don’t be shy!