Cookery was taught by Mrs Noakes, who was young and blonde and pretty. It was a good gig

31st March 2006 at 01:00
My memories of schooldays are based almost entirely on food; my abiding memory of prep school is of hunger. The food was crap, but we all had a patch of land and I remember growing carrots and cress and radishes and lots of things that I could eat.

The head of gardening at Summerfields was the Rev Willie Pryor, a classic eccentric who also taught divinity, geography and science. He had a shock of white hair, dressed in tweeds and rode everywhere on his bicycle. He started a group called the Wombles and had us going round Oxford picking up litter. He taught by telling stories. When we learned about condensation and precipitation, for instance, he talked about Captain Raindrop and Cirrus the Wisp. To illustrate what happens when heat rises, he smoked his pipe in the classroom. Occasionally he would lose his temper and scream and shout, but he was never scary.

At Eton I was lucky because my housemaster, Dr Atkinson, was a foodie so on Sundays instead of being served those awful vacuum packed slices of unidentifiable grey meat, he'd make sure we had a roast.

I floated through most of my schooldays with absolutely no record of any merit whatsoever, either academic or sporting. But I always enjoyed English and I had a good teacher at A-level called Angus Graham-Campbell. He was the first teacher I met who treated you as an adult and spoke to you naturally and honestly. The first book we did with him was Emma. It was the first Jane Austen novel I had studied in depth and it became one of my favourite books.

Mr Graham-Campbell was one of the younger brigade of masters at Eton and he stood out as an individual as well as a teacher. He had grey curly hair and there was a rumour that he had been a bit of a hippy in his youth. He'd been at Eton in the Sixties and Seventies and had a broader outlook than most of the masters. He wrote plays for radio, and being a dramatist made him more interesting.

He had a relaxed, university style of teaching. He would sit in the middle of the room, tipping back on his chair, probably take off his tie, and encourage us to give our opinion of a particular piece of writing. He never preached, never told you what you should or shouldn't think. He would gently push you, explaining: "This is what some people think and this is what other people think. Tell me what you think." He was full of wonderful theories. I remember, for instance, him explaining why he thought Prince Eddy was Jack the Ripper. On one occasion he arranged an Austenesque banquet where we ate and drank the sort of things they would have had in Regency times. We had lots of different courses, based on a picnic at Box Hill.

In my final school year we had to choose one extracurricular activity, which could be anything from mechanics to Chinese. I picked cookery, which was taught by Mrs Noakes, who was young and blonde and pretty. It was a good gig and a great escape from the formality of the classroom. Mrs Noakes was married to one of the English masters and we went to their house where she taught us how to chop onions and to make classic dishes, everything from souffles to coq au vin and fresh pasta. We cooked these delicious things and then ate what we had made.

My mother had taught me basic cooking skills and a love of food. She is good at roasts; not so good at pastries and cakes. As a child I watched and stirred and ate. We lived in the country on a farm so enjoyed seasonal meat and vegetables and always had home-made bread. My favourite dish was my mother's speciality: chicken roasted with a lemon shoved up its arse.

Tom Parker Bowles was talking to Pamela Coleman

The story so far

1974 Born London

1979-83 Heywood House school, Corsham

1983-88 Summerfields prep school, Oxford

1988-93 Eton college

1990 First job as salesman in Harrods' linen department

1994-97 Reads English literature at Worcester College, Oxford

1997-2000 Works in PR for film company

2001 onwards Writes food column for Tatler magazine

2003 onwards Writes food column for the Mail on Sunday

2004 Publication of first book, E is for Eating

2006, April 5 Appears on Eating With... on BBC 2, 8.30pm

October 2006 Publication of The Year of Eating Dangerously (Ebury)

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