In my impoverished days at St Andrews I shared a flat on Largo Road. We had two ladies as neighbours, one retired and one about to. Since neither of us had the skills or the inclination to tend the garden at the back, they took it over for us and grew vegetables. Potatoes were the best. They produced an unbelievable quantity. Often when we had no food we'd dig up a few from the garden and eat fried sliced potatoes or oven-baked potato pie.
From time to time the two ladies would leave a bag of vegetables by the back door. Occasionally there would be carrots, and even sometimes runner beans as well as potatoes. Sometimes it was all we had to eat. If we could afford a few scraps of stewing meat, they would make excellent stews. Gradually I learned how to cook a few dishes.
There was rhubarb, masses of it at the back of the garden. We made stewed rhubarb by the pot-full, leaving some in the pan for the next meals. It was then we discovered what an excellent cleaning agent it was. It must have been the oxalic acid, because it left the pans sparkling up to the point the rhubarb had filled.
We cooked rhubarb pies and entertained our friends with them. At first I bought ready-made short-crust pastry and rolled it out to put a top crust on, but I soon taught myself to make pastry from flour and cheap margarine because it was a fraction of the cost of ready-made pastry, and I started making proper pies with a pastry bottom and top. They were mostly rhubarb because it came free from our garden, but I extended my skills to gooseberries since they were a cheap buy, and occasionally to apples with cinnamon.
My culinary skills evolved from necessity, but they have stayed with me and developed over the years, and still bring much pleasure and satisfaction. And I often think fondly of the two elderly ladies who helped us out.