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Kitchen scholastics

(article, Liz Crain)

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When Wendy Harrison started her blog, Teaching and Learning and a Wee Bit of Cooking, in January 2007, she intended to write the majority of posts about her secondary-school classroom. But every time Harrison put together a post, she found herself writing about food. After a few weeks, her charming and always delicious Scottish food blog became simply A Wee Bit of Cooking.
p(blue). Blog: A Wee Bit of Cooking
Average posts per month: 17
Blogger: Wendy Harrison
Age: 30
Blog place of origin: Inverness, Scotland
Harrison posts regularly about foraged foods and the harvest from her first-ever vegetable garden. Some of the most entertaining posts concern Harrison's grumpy neighbor, who doesn't appreciate the bounty of wild and cultivated edibles in his yard. Harrison happily reaps the benefits, putting his fruit and berry write-offs to good use in her kitchen. 

[%image reference-image float=right width=350 credit="Photo courtesy Wendy Harrison" caption="Underripe quinces, sliced."]
These days Harrison has been posting frequently about nut butters, making her own at home and sometimes brown-bagging for lunch. Her partner, D, teaches at the same school as she does.
What do you eat for lunch at school?
I usually make a big pot of soup on a Sunday afternoon; it was tomato, lentil, and rosemary last week. This plus any leftovers from our dinners sees me through the week.
Does your partner, D, usually have the same?
Yes, most of the time we have the same lunch. The other teachers think I spoil him. 
How is your school's lunch program?
Excellent. Our canteen recently won awards for its healthy menus and the head cook, Diana, was invited to Downing Street to meet the prime minister. Unfortunately, Diana has just left the school. We are all hoping that the high standards are going to be maintained.
Are you still mum's-the-word about telling people about your blog?
Mostly, yes. I’m very proud of my blog, but I get so very, very shy when asked to talk about it. My incessant food photography has outed me to most of my family and some friends now, though.

[%image promo-image float=left width=350 credit="Photo courtesy Wendy Harrison" caption="Membrillo paste, made from cooked quinces and served with cheese."]
Do any of your students or fellow teachers read your blog?
No. Good grief, I just blushed at the mere thought of that! I see my blog as an escape from my teaching life.
Have you always been a passionate cook?
No. I’m not sure I could pinpoint the time when I started to become seriously interested in food, but I know that Jamie Oliver was a catalyst. When I lived in Finland, I used to watch his shows and try to pick up Finnish words from the subtitles. Didn’t learn too much Finnish, but I did become more interested in cooking.
You were a vegetarian for several years. Do you ever think you'll go back to that?
I don’t think so. My reason for being a vegetarian when I was younger was that I couldn’t cope with eating something that had lived and breathed. I’ve made my peace with that concept now, but am still very fussy about using ethically reared meat.
Which Scottish foods are your favorites?
Haggis is amazingly good. I don’t eat it very often, but it is absolutely delicious. Recently, I watched a TV cookery show and the guest chef prepared a delicious haggis-stuffed chicken. The show’s presenter refused to taste it because haggis is made from offal. I was absolutely furious! I couldn’t help but think that if I had her job, I’d taste anything.
Other favorites include venison, raspberries, oatcakes, and Mackie’s ice cream.
During the school year, how do you manage to make time for your blog?
Cooking and blogging are what I do to relax. Even during the toughest weeks, I love curling up on the sofa with my laptop and writing a post. 
What foods do you cook when you're pinched for time?
My freezer is very well-stocked. Whenever I make a stew, chili, or curry, I double the quantities in order to freeze portions. Once every couple of months, I make a batch of jiao zi (Chinese dumplings) and a batch of gnocchi. Both of these can be cooked very quickly from frozen. And finally, I always have Chinese chicken stock in the freezer for making Asian soups.
What foods do you most like to grow in your garden? 
My vegetable patch is quite small, so my preferred crops are those which produce a lot of food in a small space. Courgettes (zucchini), spinach, rocket (arugula), berries, and peas have been my favorites over the last year. I couldn’t believe how many courgettes my three plants produced. It got to the point where I was so utterly sick of them I tried to give them away to strangers passing by my garden.

h1. Liz's favorite posts
1. Venison and Bramble Stew
2. Courgettes R Us
3. Four Ways With Sorrel
4. Improving a Goat's Cheese Sandwich
5. Membrillo (Quince Paste)
When did you start vegetable and herb gardening?
Just this year. It was an idea I’d toyed with for a long time, but I hadn’t actually taken any steps towards growing. Two events spurred me into action. Firstly, I bought my own house, enabling me to tear up a garden without fear of landlord reprisal. And secondly, I tasted my dad’s homegrown Brussels sprouts picked straight from the plant. They were so amazingly sweet and fresh, I knew I wanted to taste more freshly picked produce.

What are your favorite garden edibles?
Because I use them every single day, I would have to say my herbs. So far I’m growing bay, rosemary, fennel, curly parsley, mint, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, oregano, chives, sage, and basil. Hope to add dill and coriander to that list next year. Never tarragon, though; it’s horrible.
What's the best meal you prepared at home this week?
Either tonight’s roast-chicken dinner or the aubergine (eggplant) curry I made early in the week. The latter was a recipe from Jill Dupleix’s new book and was remarkably meaty and filling, despite being vegetarian and low-fat. 
What's your favorite source for recipes?
There are so many! My cookbook collection is constantly growing, as is the number of food blogs I read. I like to make my own adaptations of dishes I eat in restaurants, and the BBC food website is great too. Plus I tend to time my gym visits with cookery programs. Nothing keeps me on the treadmill like watching "Saturday Kitchen" or "Britain’s Best Dish" on the monitor.
p(bio). Liz Crain is a writer in Portland, Oregon.

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