Trevor Laffan: It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally got the hang of cooking

By Trevor Laffan
Trevor Laffan: It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally got the hang of cooking

SPOILED ROTTEN: Trevor Laffan’s wife took great pleasure in pointing out that his mother used to take the top off his egg!

THE Department of Health has launched a campaign aimed at encouraging children to eat more healthily to combat the increasing obesity rates.

It also hopes to create awareness about the type of food children are putting into their bodies and the amounts they are consuming.

They produced a guide on portion sizes too, which makes great sense, and this should also help kids in later life with food preparation and cooking.

I must be honest, I was never much of a cook but my lack of talent isn’t entirely my fault.

I was brought up in a home run by a typical Irish mammy, who believed her role in life was to prevent the family from starving to death. There was a standard portion size in our house that could have been classified as a shovel full.

The kitchen was her domain, and I was never encouraged to go anywhere near the stove. When I left home, I was fed and watered during my time in Templemore training as a guard.

After that, I worked in Dublin for a few years and lived in digs with five other guys, where the landlady cooked our grub and even prepared sandwiches for those of us on shift work, so I was mollycoddled again.

When I returned to Cork in 1983, I moved back home for a year while the house was being built, so it was back to my mother’s cooking. There was no talk of healthy eating or portion sizes then either. It was good wholesome food, piled high, and I’m showing the signs of it now.

I was just about able to boil a kettle by the time I got married in 1984 and my wife must have discussed my lack of culinary skills with my mother at some point because she took great pleasure in telling me that my mother used to take the top off my egg.

When I tried to defend myself by telling her that all parents did that for their kids, she agreed, but pointed out that by 22 years of age, most kids have figured out how to do it for themselves. Fair point, I suppose.

With the two of us working, I had to pull my weight in the kitchen. I could manage scrambled eggs or beans on toast but that was hardly a substantial meal for a hungry wife coming home after a hard day’s work.

The oven was a complete mystery to me, and I was reluctant to go near it, but I was saved when I discovered the pressure cooker.

It was basically a big pot with a lid, and it cooked the food under pressure. Just put some water into the bottom of it, put the food into a tray and seal the lid.

There was a weight that went on top of the lid and as the water heated in the pot, the steam lifted the weight and escaped through a little nozzle and soon after, hey presto, the dinner was ready.

Nothing is simple though and one day while preparing the dinner I was distracted. I put the food in the pot, sealed it and turned the heat on, but forgot the water.

After a while, I heard a strange sound coming from the kitchen and when I peeped in, I could see the pot doing a little dance on the cooker. It was vibrating violently and suddenly there was a loud pop and the little escape valve shot from the pot and lodged in the ceiling.

Whatever I had been cooking had erupted from the pot like a mini Vesuvius and ended up all over the cooker. The floor was destroyed and there was a strong smell of burning.

When we left that house many years later, that mark was still visible above the cooker.

Shaken from that experience, my fear of cooking returned and after that I went back to the humble saucepan. I kept it simple with stews and curries from then on, nothing too adventurous.

It kept the wolf from the door and there was no danger of blowing anything up but recently, I’ve taken things to another level.

My wife came home a few weeks ago with a thing that looked like a massive egg with a handle on the front of it. To me, it was just something else to clog up the kitchen, but she told me it was an air frier.

I was sceptical at first, but I have been completely won over by this gadget. It has an element and a fan, so it cooks everything by hot air. It’s ingenious, it’s healthy, and there’s no mess — but that’s not all.

My sister, Deb, dropped down a few Slimming World cookery books. Not sure why she thought I needed them, but maybe she was just having a clear out. Anyway, I had a look through them, and I was pleasantly surprised.

A lot of the stuff in there looked very appealing. I had always assumed those meals were full of twigs and raw leaves and tasted like cardboard, but I was wrong. This food is lovely.

The ingredients take a bit of getting used to. It can be off-putting when you see a list of ingredients you’ve never heard of with names you can’t pronounce, especially when all you have in the cupboard is salt and pepper, but once you invest in a decent spice rack, this cooking lark isn’t so complicated after all.

I’ve even started to use the oven and, surprise, surprise, there’s no mystery to that either.

My mother would be surprised at this transformation and that I was finally able to take the top off my own egg.

But if she was here now, I bet she’d still be doing it for me.

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