There were two hundred children in my year at senior school. As I have mentioned before, due to the school being built up around us, for cooking lessons we travelled to Fareham Technical College. As there were so many of us, I only remember having two cooking lessons there - probably one in the first year and one in the second year.
The day that we were being taught to cook cauliflower cheese, was the day that my cooking skills rose to the highest level they would ever obtain. We were in a different room than the one where we made our fruit crumbles and I wasn't with anyone that I knew. I remember the room being much lighter, however, my anxiety in this situation was not very light.
I was relieved when the cauliflower was in the saucepan. One thing down, one to go. I began the rue sauce. My heart was pounding as I began the process. I could follow directions, what was so hard about this? Was it because I didn’t know what the end product looked like? Was it because it was one of my first exposures to doing this myself? Was it because I was in a strange and unfamiliar place? I was relieved when the rue sauce was thick. I added the cheese and it melted.
However, I was stuck. My cauliflower had not cooked. Everyone had their cauliflower cheese in the oven. Mine was still simmering away in the saucepan. I poked it with the knife. Still hard. The teacher came over and poked it with the knife. “Give it another five or ten minutes,” she said.
The others were taking their cauliflower cheeses out of the oven and letting them cool before we went home. Mine was still boiling happily away in the saucepan. I poked it with the knife. Still hard. The teacher came over and poked it with a knife. “You’ll have to finish this off when you get home. Drain it off. Put it in your casserole dish. Put the cheese sauce over the top. Wash up.”
For some reason, this cooking exploit felt like a colossal failure. I felt like my faux pas had been exposed in public. The tale does not end here. When I got home, I explained about the ‘cauliflower who couldn’t’ to my mother. She said, “Well, we will finish cooking it in the oven’. On went the oven. An hour later, she took out the cauliflower cheese. She poked her knife into it! Yep, you’ve guessed it - hard as a rock!
To this day, I do not know why the cauliflower couldn’t, wouldn’t cook. Maybe this experience is why I tend to always overcook cauliflower now? It is now a standard joke in the family, as are my mad cooking skills! However, it is good to have something to laugh about, right?