As we get older, diet becomes more important and the benefits of a good, healthy and varied diet extend beyond the health point of view. We have more time to enjoy the preparation, cooking, presentation and consumption of food.
But not everyone is a Delia Smith or Jamie Oliver and we may need help to develop basic skills. This is more relevant for older men who have kept out of the kitchen for most of their adult lives and have been lucky enough to have meals put in front of them!
An Age UK centre in London were finding that men were asking them advice on how to get more involved in the preparation of their meals. Some had lost their wives or partners and others wanted to help out more and learn skills which may be useful to them in the future.
Cooking Classes for Older Men
After consultation, they came up with the Kitchen Kings project and obtained funding from the City Bridge Trust to provide classes in cooking for men aged 65 and over. It proved to be a huge success and the participants enjoyed learning the skills to prepare the food which they then ate in the lunch club.
The volunteer instructors started by going through the basic skills such as scrambling eggs, making pancakes and baking potatoes. After requests from the participants, they moved onto to making pastry, cakes and scones. Not content with these new skills they then progressed to the likes of Spanish omelettes and bread and butter pudding.
All the classes were done in a relaxed manner and the men said they found them a lovely way to get out of the house, make new friends and learn new skills. One man, when asked “What’s the best thing you’ve made?” replied instantly “Friends!”
Age UK Healthy Living Project Co-ordinator Helen Gibson, who set up the class in Hillingdon said, “It’s no good lecturing older people. Instead we try to encourage them to try new things and learn in other ways such as doing quizzes and taste challenges.” She intends to plant a herb garden in the grounds of Townfield Community Centre where the class is held.
Each member of the class has a different reason for wanting to learn to cook and eat more healthily. But a common motivation is getting out of the dreaded Ready Meal Syndrome.
Helen Gibson goes on to say ” A lot of men who come to these classes appear to lack confidence in social areas. I think many men become depressed when they retire because quite often their social life has been focused around work. Taking that initial decision to enrol in a class is the hardest step for them.”
She adds, “What I try to emphasize is that Kitchen Kings is not just for men on their own. Even if you don’t need these skills now, there might come a time in the future when you will. If somebody’s wife goes into hospital or becomes debilitated in some way, he will have to fend for himself or possibly do all the catering and shopping for both of them.”
The classes have now finished but maybe you could find something similar in your area or encourage a community group that you visit to set up cooking classes to reach out to people who may derive enormous benefit from this.
To find out what Age UK does in your area please click on the link below: