Cooking the worries away

Everyone should have the opportunity to learn some basic cooking skills. Cooking food for yourself and friends and family is a wonderful thing.

Our Members may have missed out on learning these key skills. Leaving prison and suddenly finding that they have to fend for themselves can be daunting. On a drastically reduced income, the regular take-aways and fast food of the past are suddenly a very expensive luxury.

One to one cooking skills sessions tailored to the Member’s request whether it be how to stir fry or make a Mac n Cheese, have been great at increasing their kitchen skills and introducing more healthy and economical ways to cook.

The biggest bonus though, is building their confidence and encouraging them to experiment and have some fun in the kitchen.

The most recent Member to cook, who I’ll call Carl, was a difficult person to pin down. Arriving 3 hours late for a previous session due to personal issues, I was not about to give up that easily; we agreed to cook the following week. Both his case manager and I were calling and texting a range of 3 numbers we have for him the day before and the morning of the cooking session.

My irritations with his elusiveness and the possible food waste
were quickly put into perspective

I was juggling feelings of frustration and disappointment as my schedule was being disrupted and, I had already bought the cooking ingredients. Finally Carl arrived; only half an hour late and apologetic. I noticed he had a slight limp as I offered him a coffee.

“….stressful, I got stabbed”

Pleased that he had made an appearance we got ready to cook. I asked Carl how his weekend was, he casually replied “stressful, I got stabbed”. He showed me a minor wound in his thigh and a more severe back wound, both from a screwdriver. Carl’s Mum had been tending to his injuries as he did not go to hospital.

Gang issues in his area are a constant threat for him whilst he waits to be re-housed. Only Connect will support Carl while he tries to sort his life out. Not quite job ready, Carl needs to be kept busy and out of trouble. Engaging him in courses and activities like cooking help with this.

His case manager, who had brought him through the gate, remarked that she was seeing another side to Carl………..calm, engaged, happy and sociable. He wanted to come back for more.

“When we cooking again…….can we make dumplings?”

Carl was a demon with the pizza dough; he’d had plenty of practice in prison but had never made a finished pizza. It was a pleasure teaching him how to make a tomato sauce and he visibly relaxed whilst creating his own complete pizza from scratch. Not sure about his choice of topping though……tandoori chicken?!!

Sharon Conrad