What do you consider the most practical part of your own education? Halachah? Math? Language arts? How about the art of cooking and baking? British-born great-grandmother Mrs. Ruth Steinberg has taught the ever popular and practical cookery class in Bnos Yisroel school of Manchester for enough years to teach plenty of mothers and daughters. Most high schools in England teach the Food and Nutrition course to all students in grades seven through nine. It is then offered as an elective for the remainder of high school where it culminates in a G.C.S.E. government examination with both theory and practical elements. And while hundreds of pupils are using the recipes from their school cookery books in their own homes Mrs. Steinberg takes an extra special pride in the fact that a few have gone on to become cookery teachers too. In fact when she retired last July one of the ladies who took over her teaching post was a former student.
Bnos Yisroel views the subject as an opportunity to teach frum girls an important life skill. “When I first started teaching cooking was mandatory in all grades of our school. Our principal had been in kollel in South Africa and there was an American newly-wed there. The first Shabbos she was absolutely helpless. There was no kosher takeaway there and she had no idea what to buy and how to cook it. The other kollel wives had to take her in hand and teach her how to cook. So our principal wanted every student to know how to set up a kitchen and prepare meals. A girl never knows where she will find herself and may not always be able to buy what she wants” says Mrs. Steinberg.
Based in a spacious fully-equipped kitchen which was updated twice during her tenure Mrs. Steinberg taught full-time as each class spent a double or triple period in the school kitchen weekly. Alternate weeks featured a theory class and cooking demonstration the week in between was time for the students to roll up their sleeves and get cooking. Seventh and eighth graders cook one recipe per practical lesson but by ninth grade the work picks up pace and the girls prepare several dishes each lesson.
“We start in seventh grade with basic nutrition food groups and commodities setting up a kitchen and some easy cooking. My easier recipes include pizza knishes Shepherds’ pie and apple crumble. As the girls go through the school they get more proficient and we learn nutrition in detail more complex cooking methods and how to use different equipment ” Mrs. Steinberg explains.
While some students are very interested in the cooking classes and some less Mrs. Steinberg says that every grade contains some girls who have absolutely no idea what to do in the kitchen. “The ones who know nothing are the ones whose mothers have not allowed them to cook. Others are quite competent.” Not every girl is cut out to be a gourmet cook but in Mrs. Steinberg’s experience every girl who is taught cooking and has a good recipe book should be able to produce a nutritious meal.