Norfolk teacher revives forgotten foods

Norfolk high school teacher Sabine Jalil has taken her knowledge of cookery and history, and is delving into the world of forgotten foods. Abigail Saltmarsh reports.

Sabine Jalil's kitchen smells enticingly of Christmas. On the table are spices, waiting to be used, and on the sideboard is an exquisite gingerbread house she is putting the finishing touches to.

This beautiful creation is just one of the dishes she will be discussing and demonstrating at her festive Forgotten Foods sessions next month.

Sabine, a teacher from the Hewett School, in Norwich, has recently launched the series of classes in a bid to take her passion for both history and food to others.

The first events will be called Aromas of Paradise, and will see her explore the tales behind some of the spices in Christmas foods, and teach people how to make mulled wine, gingerbread houses and either pepper nuts or spiced biscuits.

'I think it is lovely to know the background to the things you are cooking, and to know why we eat the foods we do,' she explained.

'In a way these classes are less about the culinary skills and more about a sensory and aesthetic experience, and about understanding the spices.'

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Sabine, who lives near Norwich, originally trained as a nurse, before moving to America, where she worked in real estate. Upon her return to the UK, she studied art history and history of medicine at UEA, before moving on to focus on a PGCE in 1999. The following year she started teaching history at the Hewett School, remaining with the subject for eight years.

'Then a job came up in food studies and I decided to look at the possibility of teaching that instead. I have always really enjoyed cooking, preparing food with really good, plain, simple ingredients,' she said. 'I also realised how perfect cookery was as a method for teaching other things, like history, religious studies and philosophy, for example. When you are demonstrating a recipe to a 14-year-old, who does not really want to be there, you are hitting all their senses. Not only are you doing something visual, but there are all the smells as well, and they are also working with their hands.'

She continued: 'I realised you could talk to them about the foods, bring in some history of the ingredients and suddenly they were engaged. It felt like it was a two-way process. They also wanted to get it right so were listening and following the recipe carefully – reading, listening and interpreting the instructions was helping their literacy through comprehension.'

And she added: 'They also liked having something at the end of it that they have made themselves.'

As Sabine began exploring the different ways of teaching through food, she came up with the idea of working with adults as well.

'I was excited by the thought of bringing history and food together in a way that was not so tied to the curriculum and where there was no exam at the end of it. I thought this could work in a more free-flowing way.'

Running at the Hewett School on December 8 and 15, the classes last three hours and will involve discussion, demonstration and hands-on preparation.

'People will come in and have some mulled wine, and we will look at how to make it,' she said. 'I will then tell some of the stories behind the spices in the mulled wine, and what made them so special. We will then move on to discussing how to make a gingerbread house and the pepper nuts or spiced biscuits.'

Ingredients will be provided and participants will go home with a tin full of spiced biscuits, as well as the sections of their house and instructions on assembling it at home.

Launching Forgotten Foods has been an exciting process for Sabine, and one she hopes she can develop in evenings and school holidays.

She is looking at running classes and workshops with those involved in producing and selling foods from Norfolk, is going to work on a creative partnerships project on cooking and poetry with youngsters in the spring, and is even discussing working her Forgotten Foods sessions into holidays abroad.

'History and food go so well together, people enjoy the stories and do find it inspiring,' she said. 'These first classes will be a great way for me to begin and will be a lovely way of taking people into Christmas.'

The Forgotten Foods sessions run from 6pm to 9pm, on Wednesday, December 8, and Wednesday, December 15, at the Hewett School, in Norwich. Visit or email