New Forest District Council is running a weekly cookery demonstration highlighting healthy dishes, food preparation and basic kitchen management.
The free two-hour sessions, a Hampshire County Council initiative led locally by NFDC, are aimed at men over 55 who have limited experience of cooking for themselves.
Deborah Atkinson, one of two voluntary community cooks who present the course, said: “Participants may have a wife or long-term partner in hospital or care, or they may have become widowed or divorced. In these kinds of situations, men who haven’t cooked much before can often resort to ready meals or take-away food. We’re aiming to give them the confidence to make healthier choices and show them they can cook basic good food on a budget.”
Paddy O’Driscoll, Colten Care’s Catering Manager, said: “As our whole ethos is about caring for older people, including providing our own residents with great homemade food, we were only too happy to provide space and facilities for what is a much needed community initiative. The demonstrations focus on practical, hands-on skills and how a balanced diet can help to keep health issues at bay.”
Participants Derek Blackiston and Tony Rickard say they have learned a great deal.
Derek said: “It’s given me fantastic encouragement and I know lots of other people who would want to come. The real benefit is that it goes through sensible things like hygiene very thoroughly. It is all really useful.”
Tony said: “Even children at school should do this. If you can cook ten dishes then you will save money and never go hungry. You will definitely learn as long as you are taught properly by people like this.”
One aspect of the sessions is to find out what dishes the men would like to cook. Favourites include traditional dishes such as cottage pie, sausage and mash, and cheese sauce. The participants are given advice on the dietary impact of protein, salt, sugar and fat. Another focus is ‘batch cooking’ where food is prepared and stored in jam jars or other containers for use over time.
Councillor James Binns, Cabinet Member for Health and Leisure at New Forest District Council, said: “New Forest District has one of the highest ageing populations in the country and this brings with it new challenges. Some men who have previously never cooked before now find that they have to do it for themselves and this course helps to address that problem. The programme is also about keeping men well and active, and for some, cooking a meal for the first time for their partner and family. The demonstrations are teaching them all the basics and the feedback from participants has been exceptional.”