Stephanie Alexander taking the fear out of first-time cooks
MORE than 1500 schools have adopted Stephanie Alexander’s recipes for simple but nutritious meals. Read about her bible, and her garden exploits.
Nothing warms Stephanie Alexander’s heart more than seeing little dirt-stained hands scratch in the vegetable garden. Tiny fingers pluck the fruits of their labour from schoolyard potagers destined for the kitchen. For many it’s the first time their tastebuds are tantalised by the foreign flavours of some fruits, vegetables and herbs. Alexander’s name is synonymous with the book regarded as the “bible” in Australian kitchens. But for the doyenne of domesticity, The Cook’s Companion isn’t her proudest achievement. Rather it’s her philanthropic feat in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation she founded in 2001 to ignite the palates of schoolchildren. Her efforts to sow the seed of healthy food habits into classrooms resulted in Alexander being appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2014. Today, more than 1500 schools have adopted the program across Australia, including more than 50 in Queensland. “It’s the fuel that keeps me going,” the 77-year-old says. “When I see the enthusiasm and the children explain to me how much the program means to them, I feel a real glow of pride. It’s the most important thing I’ve done.” Teaching others to cook remains at the heart of what Alexander does, almost five decades since she swapped library shelves for the kitchen pass. It’s no surprise her latest book, The Cook’s Apprentice, the 18th in her catalogue, was initially inspired by years of training young apprentices and the need to teach teenagers basic cooking techniques for adulthood. “As I go around the country, I’m realising there are a lot of adults, for all sorts of different reasons, have simply not learned how to cook. “Sometimes people have lost the cook in their family, through divorce or death. They realise sooner or later, they need to look after themselves and that includes cooking food.” “I want to feel that I’m almost holding the hand of somebody who’s reading the recipe and they can say ‘I can do that’.” The Cook’s Apprentice (Lantern, RRP $45).
Stephanie Alexander's proudest moments.