Up until 1988, high schools in Ontario included an option of Grade 13 for those who planned to attend university. I received two high school diplomas: one awarded after Grade 12 and the second after Grade 13.
Back then, high schools offered different classes from what they have today. Topics like cursive writing, typing, and sewing were part of the curriculum.
I had fine penmanship and although I received the lowest grades in typing (because of my slow speed); I liked the class and enjoyed creating business letters. Sewing, on the other hand, required fine motor skills and self-control — two skills that I did not possess.
Home Economics, or HomeEc, was known as a “bird course”. Learning to sew, cook, and set a table was supposed to be easy.
Mrs. O’Brien taught the course. We had a mock kitchen on one side of the classroom and desks facing a chalkboard on the other.
We learned about nutrition and followed Canada’s Food Guide. The main cumulative project we worked on over the school year was to write out recipes on lined cardstock to gather in a green index card box. The recipes we collected were supposed to be ones that we actually made. The headings included the main dish, salad, soup, appetizers, and desserts.
Although my mom was a fabulous cook and restaurateur, she never worked from a recipe. I scoured cookbooks in the library for the tastiest recipes. I chose interesting ones that had good-looking photos.
But instead of creating these dishes, I chose to write them out on my cards and have my mom sign them. She didn’t realize that by signing my sheet she was, in fact, witnessing that I had made it.
I contended that I had better things to do than cook — like work on my math assignment.
In grade 13, I opted to take three math courses: Relations & Functions, Algebra, and Calculus. To this day, I have never used calculus for anything in my life. At the time, I thought I fooled Mrs. O’Brien by cheating and not taking the time to learn to cook.
But when I lived on my own at university, I realized I only fooled and cheated myself.
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