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WILLERSLEY

Both a job and a lifestyle, we have made Willersley House our home for the past three years.  Most of the inspiration for ROPC comes from the stories that were created in Willersley.  From here, from this house and these children, I have been able to work my way back.

Some of the stories started their lives as newsletters, which is where my job and my hobby has overlapped.  It is rather easy to do.  I had always thought that being a teacher was more than just a job.  Then I watch my wife, her assistant and the other people who make up the boarding team.  They are remarkable people.

Working in boarding is more than just a job.  It is a life dedicated to the well-being, the safety, the experiences, the happiness and the development of others.  I get the easy job - I sit on the sidelines and write newsletters.  You will easily get to know who the real heroes of the stories are.

The annual Willersley spring bbq (also available in winter)

The Willersley Cookbook

Although I had thought of this concept for about a year, I did not get to write it until I added it to a newsletter in November 2023.  The Concept is pretty straightforward.  Having watched the girls regularly destroy the kitchen and most of the utensils and ingredients in it, I thought it might be quite funny to draft a cookbook.  It is important to point out a boarding irony.  Most of the students' complaints seem to focus on school food though they enjoy and value McDonald's and their own concoctions, some of which you can see below.  The Willersley Cookbook was not difficult to write.  I just thought back to some of the dishes that even the dog didn't fancy.  The proof is always in the pudding...

The original idea of the cookbook came to me when I was looking another cookbook, created by students and staff of another independent school.  The recipes had been sent in by students from all over the world and try as I might, I could not get a single one to taste good.

Children have a way with food and the many times I have watched the students in my house vandalise the house kitchen in the name of culinary endeavour, I thought to myself that someone ought to chronicle this.  Someone ought to write down these recipes and keep them for posterity.  When children cook food, it does not just provide us with an innovative collection of recipes, it is also a wonderfully fresh approach to cooking techniques.  If we are open-minded and we are relatively ambivalent about the survival of our species, we could perhaps discover a new way to prepare and consume food.


I sincerely hope that you will try one of these recipes and you embrace the ‘boarding’ way of cooking.  I hope you will agree with me that while it is perhaps not a celebration of appetising or even digestible nourishment, it is the very embodiment of what makes boarding unique, colourful and sometimes even palatable.

Recipe One - Fried to Scrambled Eggs to Omelette
A fantastic breakfast or brunch option is this FSEO.  The origins of this dish come from a collaboration of cultures and cooking techniques employed by different girls at different stages of the cooking process.

 

It is important to gather at least as many chefs as you have eggs, though it does appear there is no real limit on the number of eggs. Nor is there a limit on the expiry date of those eggs.  While fresh eggs are prepared in this dish, recently discovered eggs in a fridge from a galaxy far, far away that may suffice too.

 

Ingredients:
One tablespoon of oil
Eggs
A dash of milk

Gather the people that are going to do the cooking all in the same kitchen.  You may wish to assemble them via WhatsApp, though make sure they are on stand-by somewhere in the house or the town.  Heat up the oil in a pan until it is approximately the temperature at which you could melt titanium.  It is inadvisable to test the heat of the oil but good indicators that you have reached the right temperature are: the smoke alarm sounding (1), girls waving tea towels (2), a mixture of both (3), men with helmets appearing in the kitchen (4).

 

At this point, you should swap chefs.  Chefs two and three can proceed by adding the eggs.  The eggs will start frying immediately but slightly burnt edges never hurt anyone.  While the eggs are frying, you could bring in chefs four and/or five.  They will be responsible for an attempt of flipping the egg.  It is important that this does not succeed.  The secret of the success of this recipe is that the egg does not come away from the pan and, rather, it starts falling apart.  This is called the scrambling phase.  It vital to give the scrambling phase plenty of time.  Checking Social Media, inviting other chefs into the cooking process or ignoring the process and leaving the kitchen altogether are all good activities to pass the time.

 

The omelette phase of the FSEO will start automatically unless you burn the dish, so it is important not to have the heat too high.  Although it is not entirely slow-cooking, slow and steady wins the race and allows the egg bits to come together and congeal into one solid mass.  You may, at this point, decide to add a dash of milk.  Serve immediately.

Or an hour later if you have other things on your mind.

Recipe Two - Pasta of Many Different Pastas
Pasta is a boarding staple.  Although most pupils will complain when pasta is on the menu for lunch or dinner and although many pupils will complain about the state of the pasta or its sauce; they embrace the many different varieties of pasta they have found in the house or the local supermarket.

The lovely thing about this recipe is that it works well with all types of pasta and all types of cooking times.  It is an extremely versatile dish also in its appropriateness for all the different classic pasta sauces.  Try it with Bolognese, Puttanesca or a white sauce - as you wish.

Ingredients:
Pasta (any)

Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil.  It is essential you choose a pan that is small.  The smallest pan in the house tends to be the best.  The amount of water should be two inches high.  Place the pan on the hob and choose the lowest setting.  Now wait an extremely long time for the water to boil.  You may wish to observe this process.  While you wait, you can practise different Tik Tok dances, phone some friends or have random conversations about boys.  Eventually, check the water and add more.  A lot more.

 

Once the water does boil and it is not time to go to bed, add the pasta.  The trick is to add so much pasta that the pan overflows, which explains the small plan.  Not only is an overflowing pan a lovely sight, and a sign that you are a dab hand in the kitchen, it also ensures your return to clean up a sizeable mess.

 

Once you have added the pasta, do not stir.  This may seem like a logical step but the more pasta that sticks to the bottom the better.  You should cook the pasta on a medium heat and then leave the cooking to do the cooking.  The brilliance of this recipe is that you can leave the pasta to do its thing.  Whoever said anything about al dente is an idiot.  Call your parents, go and do some homework, socialise, watch a movie and trust the process.  After about half an hour to forty-minutes, your pasta will be ready.  While the top layer will have mixed in with some of the water, the bottom half - the half that’s still sticking to the pan - should be almost impossible to disassociate from the bottom of the pan.  Most people will therefore decide to eat straight out of the pan but I think that is a matter of taste.

Add any sauce of your liking.

Recipe Three - A Fresh New Look at Toast
Aah the humble piece of toast.  Thought to have originated in Egyptian times as the Egyptians, much like the English, were dreadful bakers.  Albert Marsh invented the world’s first toaster in 1893 and it was first given as a wedding present in 1926.  You can visit the Smithsonian Museum to see well over 100 different types of toasters or you can visit Scarborough College to discover well over 100 different ways of eating toast.

 

Ingredients:
A horrible white loaf (factory processed, the staler the better)
Any (and I do mean any) type of spread

For the best results, try and wait as long to toast bread as possible.  Genuine factory bread goes stale but does not start to form (too much) mould until about five or six days of doing nothing in the cupboard in an open bag that is exposed to sunlight, bacteria and other flavour makers.  Discard the first slice but do not throw it away.  They are handy for balancing wobbly tables, writing notes on and killing spiders.  If you are very desperate, scrape the end slices to get the blue and green bits off (stop scraping if there’s a lot of grey dust) and toast for perhaps a few extra minutes.

Take great care when using the toaster.  You probably want to set it on the highest setting and use three or four slices to get the bread-to-burnt ratio just right.  When the toast is done but does not pop out, use a metal tool to retrieve the toast.  Ensure you do not use a wooden utensil and make sure the appliance is still connected to the mains.  For extra effect, also around the counter and the floor area, you could turn the toaster upside down and shake vigorously.

 

When it comes to decorating your toast, the sky as well the ingredients in your cupboard, larder and refuse bin are the limit.  The taste of burnt toast tends to mask most other flavours and so out-of-date products can be used on toast that has been stuck in the toatster for a slightly longer time than you intended.  A good rule of thumb when using spreads like crushed avocado, nutella or slices of banana (with or without ready salted crisps) is to try to apply as much of the spread that's available as possible.  Leave nothing behind for anyone else.  A medium-sized pot of nutella might be enough for fifty servings but challenge that.  Try to limit this to five maximum.  Only if the toast collapses under the weight of its spread have you spread too much.  Until that time, happy toasting and happy spreading!

Recipe Four - Ice Cream with Stuff
Ice cream is the great leveller in any boarding house.  Something to celebrate - think ice cream!  Something to commemorate - think ice cream.  Thinking about getting the kids to become friends - think ice cream.  Thinking about ending a friendship - steal their ice cream and blame one or the other.  Nothing is as universally understood as the love for ice cream.

 

Ingredients
Ice cream
Things - edible preferably - to enhance ice cream

As with recipe three - a new look at toast - this recipe works best when prepared a few days in advance.  There are many ways to approach preparations but in Willersley House, it is universally accepted that a good tearful break-up is probably the best preparation.  Stealing or attempting to steal one’s partner is also considered a good start to proceedings but might cause some picking of sides in the house and food is always best enjoyed in company, not in one’s room, all alone and ostracised.

A tip on buying ice cream is to consider the occasion as well as the budget.  It is also important to consider the things one may wish to enhance the ice cream with.  While Ben & Jerry’s does not require enhancement, Lidl-bought ice cream may need so much extra toppings and distractions, it could be argued that it is no longer a budget purchase.  Once the ice cream has been purchased, any other ingredients must be considered.  Chocolate, like ice cream, is basically what keeps us going as a species and a boarding house.  Sprinkles are colourful but potentially harmful for both your teeth and the kitchen clean-up situation.  Alcohol and savoury toppings are both major lifestyle choices, though both in very different ways.  One could get you expelled, the other could get you sectioned.

 

Unlike some of the other recipes in this cookbook, preparing this dish must be done in complete and utter secrecy (especially if this is not actually your ice cream to begin with). Do not put advertisements or teasers in the House WhatsApp Group and do not tell anyone who happens to be passing by the kitchen what you are doing.  Sharing is caring but not when you are having ice cream.

Even in a boarding house…
 

Important Messages

Each boarding house now comes with its own WhatsApp group, which was originally designed for important messages that the houseparent, boarding master, etc. could relay to their boarding students.  Times of meetings, changes to schedules and so on.  Since day one of the Willersley WhatsApp, the group has primarily been used to relay messages of a completely unimportant nature, birthday greetings and - from time to time - passive aggressive questions.  Theoretically, I could fill an entire Website with these messages but I will try to stick to just a handful.  Where possible, WhatsApp language, abbreviations and spelling mistakes have been edited.

On Kitchen Duty

"I did eveverything.  I ain't taking out those garbage bags"

"Really?!? Please clean up!"

"The pile in the sink has grown!"

On Not Going Anywhere

"Miss I don't need my passport."

On Seating Arrangements

"Can somebody please remind me who was sitting on these tables?"

On Fashion

"Please make sure that you're all smartly dressed for tea with belly tops thanks."

"Miss, I still can't find my shoe."

"I lost my shinpads!"

"Come and get your whites without stains!"

"Has anyone seen this hoodie? It's like this but instead of blue, it's black."

"You dropped your shinpads."

"If anyone sees my pink parting comb, could you please tell me."

"I've stolen someone's sock."

"If there's anybody planning on having their nails done today, please be aware that they have to be school appropriate."

On Matters of Laundry

"Does anyone recognise these?"

"Can you try to wash things properly please?"

On catastrophes

"We're missing  millions of forks."

"I'm missing a lot of girls."

"We have an issue."

"Miss a glass broke, so what should we do with it?"

"RIP toaster machine."

"Girls, I lost my school bag."

"If anybody is going to order from McDonald's tonight, please tell me."

On Logic

"Quietly means no shouting/screaming."

On Welcoming New Girls

"Willersley feels like a second home, with second moms and 30 sisters."

"There's definitely times when you'll miss home but all in all it's going to be really fun and you'll miss Willersley once your'e at home"

 

"Can't wait to meet you!"

On Matters of Opinion

"Not acceptable."

"This is not Willersley girls standards."

 

On Missing People

"Where is Mark Spencer?"

On Nutrition

There's cookie dough in the lounge if anyone wants."

On Averting Danger

"Girls, I have let Mr XXX know that you'll all be a little late, so you won't get shouted at. Sorry!"

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