Man with a pan - the scheme connecting male carers through cooking
Statistics state that three in five of us will be a carer at some point in our lives.
Carers UK states that out of the UK’s carers 42 per cent are men and 58 per cent are women.
As part of its new plans, independent charity Carers Support West Sussex is reaching out to ‘hidden carers’.
Sonia Mangan, chief executive of the charity, says: “We have 25,000 registered carers with us but there are approximately 94,000 in West Sussex.
“For us at the moment it is about finding the hidden carers, the young adults who were carers as children and are just used to it. We have been doing a lot of work with the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and reaching out to people who are looking after their partners but don’t necessarily see themselves as carers.
“It takes parents three years to come to terms with the fact they are carers, and for others a year. We want to reach out to these people and offer support before they hit crisis point.”
This is one of the reasons the charity has joined forces with Lewes-based Community Chef to bring its Man with a Pan workshops to West Sussex.
The courses are an opportunity for older men to learn to cook, be creative and meet new people.
“I saw that there was a need to provide something for men, predominantly aged over 65 as they are facing social isolation,” explains Community Chef’s Robin Van Creveld, “but it is also about giving them new skills to be able to cook easy, healthy and nutritious meals.”
The course is held over five weeks and was funded by the National Lottery’s Awards for All.
“The first week we started with a vegetable minestrone soup with cheese and onion scones so you learn the real basics of knife skills and making a dough,” explains Robin.
“Then as the weeks progress we have a week on fish, and meat adding to their skills.
“Some of the recipes can also be batch cooked so they can make once but eat twice.”
The sessions are held at Barnham Community Hall, who gave the space to Carers Support West Sussex for free using a grant it received to combat loneliness in the community.
“Many of the men that take part are carers for their partners, they can feel alone, vulnerable and may even have issues with their own mental health,” says Robin.
“It is good to keep the brain active and I have found that men are more willing to talk and open up if they are busy doing something.
“With the group I work with in Surrey I also hold an event after so they come to the Alzheimer’s Cafe and we all meet up and cook for 80 people. It helps them keep their confidence in cooking and it is a great way for me to check in with them after the course has finished.
“Also when we do things to help other people we feel better about ourselves and it is good for our mental health and wellbeing.”
Seeing a workshop first hand many of the men want to build their confidence when it comes to cooking.
The West Sussex sessions were led by Alex von Riebech, chef and owner of Limetree Kitchen in Lewes. The men were taught how to cut an onion, carrot and celery for their soup and how to create a Mirepoix using those ingredients.
On this particular session Robin also explained the different food groups and how a balanced diet can help with conditions such as hypertension, diabetes or combat heart disease.
He says: “I want to help people understand how food works.
“When you cook something it is about flavour and there are five tastes – pungent, sweet, sour, spicy or hot and salty. I want to teach people about how to achieve the depth of flavour and how texture can impact on your enjoyment.”
Through his workshops Robin has recently published a Man with a Pan cookbook.
It features 150 recipes and is split into sections including: vegetables, meat, fish and carbs.
“Everyone that does the course gets a book,” reveals Robin.
“It has balanced meals that won’t break the bank, I say to people to do what is good for their pocket they don’t have to spend a small fortune.
“I have a lot of easy, basic recipes so how to make a ragu and how to roast a chicken to help them use the skills they have learnt on the course.”
Once this course ends there are currently no plans to run any more in West Sussex, unless they can get more funding.
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