What was I thinking? – GCSE Food Technology

14 Jul

As the summer edges closer and the exciting prospect of University becomes a little bit more like reality for those not stupid enough to opt for a third year of college, I’m tempted to cast my mind back to what seems like eons ago – my GCSE years. Then I grimace a bit, swallow distaste with myself and try to pretend that didn’t just happen.

Whilst not as bad as the sciences (to a liberal arts layabout these are the academic equivalent of being kerb-stomped) or as menial and futile as P.E., Food Technology is the one that stings the most when I hopelessly wonder if I can claw back my life aged 14-16, simply because it was me who chose to do it.

To this day, however, I will play the ‘Misinformed’ card until I get papercuts – during the period where we had to pick and shoose subjects to do at GCSE level, at no point did my younger self hear anything about designing lasagne boxes or watching videos (sometimes more than once) set in the greyest, dullest sandwich factory in the UK (at one point some guys get free sandwiches to eat, which sounds like a pretty awesome job, but the mere experience of setting foot in the place has swept away their happiness and aspirations, leaving broken shells of men who can muster nothing more joyful than “Yeah, that one’s good”). I’m a human. I need food. Can’t sponge off parents forever, so need to learn to cook. My motivations for joining the course couldn’t be simpler, and yet they were expertly dashed under a false pretence of actually doing some cooking.

Actually, that’s a lie, I did cook. I cooked a fairly edible lasagne, but that’s how they got me – I had been lured into a layered, meaty trap, forced to bake the bloody things right up until the exam. And then in the exam itself. For about four months I made nothing but lasagne, each one very slightly differentiated (I sprinkled cheese on top of one, for instance) like that would justify this ridiculous one-man assembly line.

And now a brief interlude for a joke.

A Scotsman, and Englishman and an Irishman all walk into a bar. They each order a beer and then are instructed by the barman to note and compare each of the qualities of each beer, and then analyse the glasses they came in and write down a list of required features on the kegs that they were delivered in. They are then told to design their own pint glass, with the promise of an ultimately useless qualification if they design it quite well.

I didn’t take the nearest thing to a cookery class to do graphic design. Ask anyone who creates packaging for foodstuffs if they did a Food Tech GCSE and they’ll look confused before going back to sobbing over the inanity of their career as you awkwardly try to back out of the door.

Ultimately, this is a subject that – to me – has absolutely no redeeming features whatsoever. I still don’t know how to cook, I’ll eat my own skin before I apply for a job that involves the design and manufacture of boxes, and most of the people in my class were dicks. Which isn’t the course’s fault, but it’s nice to bitch retrospectively.


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