The pioneering scheme that will be a lifeline to families in Ripon

Families feeling the pinch can benefit from an innovative new scheme that's piloting in Ripon, where nutritious and balanced meals made from scratch are the norm.

Monday, 18th November 2019, 1:32 pm
Updated Monday, 18th November 2019, 2:48 pm
Back to Basics is the brainchild of Ripon friendsHelen Mackenzie and Realitea Indian Tearoom owner, Sarita McDermott.

The Back to Basics cookery project is open to anybody who wants to develop new skills - families on a budget, students leaving for university, single parents, and older people living on their own who would enjoy the social aspect of the classes, but also the opportunity to discover fresh inspiration for meals. There are also plans to hold a children’s class, as they are at the heart of the original motivation behind the project.

Back to Basics is the brainchild of Ripon friends Helen Mackenzie and Realitea Indian Tearoom owner, Sarita McDermott. Sarita mentioned how difficult it must be for families on free school meals to cater for their children during the six-week summer holidays when the midday meal is not provided.

Sarita said: "Children are going hungry, and that is not right. We must do something." Helen said providing a meal for these children in a soup kitchen-style format would not be sustainable in the long term, and wanted to explore ways of empowering people to learn the skills that would enable them to cook on a budget.

She said: “It’s the old adage of give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he feeds for life. It all comes down to education.” And so, the idea of offering Back to Basics cookery classes was born.

A chance conversation in Realitea one day between Sarita and John from Holy Trinity Church meant that the opportunity of using the state of the art kitchen underneath the arches was a distinct possibility.

A further conversation with the vicar sealed the deal as he realised the worthiness of the project, and agreed to let Sarita and Helen use the kitchen free of charge. After mentioning the campaign on Ripon Facebook forum Blow Your Horn, it was soon obvious that the idea had legs, with hundreds of people offering to wash up or help in any way they could.

A number of Ripon businesses have also pledged their support, with Chimes, Oliver’s Pantry, Café Tempo, Cathedral View and the Royal Oak all offering to teach a menu. Helen and Sarita are also hopeful that supermarkets in the city will donate their close to sell by date produce.

Helen said: "I feel like a bit of a fraud really, as my background is in education and I have been known to set a cookbook alight on the gas hob before now, but with Sarita’s knowledge of herbs and spices, and her passion for creating delicious meals from locally sourced produce, then I am happy to take a back seat on the cooking side and concentrate on the admin and education."

Also involved in the Back to Basics project are renowned Ripon Margaret Grainger and Helen’s mother, Sylvia Grice, who will draw up a dessert menu for people to try.

Sarita said: "The whole idea is that cooking becomes a family affair so that everyone can get involved. My little girl Katherine is four, and loves nothing more than making scones and brownies with my husband and I. This project will be a brilliant way for children to learn about nutrition whilst having fun together as a family."

The format of the sessions will depend on the number of people who are interested. There will be a demonstration of each dish, and everyone will be given a recipe card and the necessary ingredients to either take away and make at home, or, if there are enough bowls, utensils and pans for the number of participants, dishes can be made in the church kitchen.

With this in mind and to keep costs low, attendees have been asked to bring their own bag to take their ingredients and recipe cards home, or to bring Tupperware boxes to take the cooked food home with them. Children are welcome to either get involved and help their parents, or play in the supervised activity room.

The first session at Holy Trinity Church takes place today, Monday, at 3.45pm, and they will then run fortnightly in the build up to Christmas. If it proves to be successful, the project will run twice a week in the summer holidays.

If anyone is interested in getting involved - offering a cookery session, providing ingredients or washing up - contact Sarita at Realitea Tearoom, or call Helen on 07896 534539.