Doug Marr, a highly respected and long-standing columnist for The Herald, has died at the age of 76 after a short illness. Here, we pay tribute to him by re-running one of our favourite columns that we believe captures his wit and warmth.

IT’S fair to say my mother was never a threat to Nigella Lawson or Mary Berry. Although we never went hungry, meals tended to be plain fare. Tomato ketchup was as exotic as it got.

Until her dying day, my mother was an unadventurous cook and eater. She refused to eat prawns as “they lived off drowned sailors”. Our menu ran on a continuous loop, with the same dishes recurring weekly. If it was macaroni and cheese sauce (tinned variety), it must be Monday.

Although there was no risk of scurvy, our diet became more varied with the arrival of ready meals. My first curry came courtesy of Vesta - in a box, powdered, and requiring only boiling water. I shouldn’t be over critical, as my father was equally useless in the kitchen. When mother was briefly hospitalised, we ate out for a week.

My father was old school. Like many, he epitomised the old joke that “home cooking” was where wives could be found. Back then, cooking wasn’t considered “manly”. Stereotyping was reinforced in schools where boys did technical and girls domestic science. Nowadays, roles have been reversed and the man with a pan has emerged. The change was partly driven by women’s realisation they were being short changed. Spare Rib magazine gave away dish cloths bearing the feminist call to arms; “First you sink into his arms, then your arms end up in his sink.”

The male colonisation of kitchens has coincided with food preparation and consumption becoming a cornerstone of modern lifestyles. That’s reflected in the ubiquity of television cooking programmes, nearly all of which are the domain of male cooks, sorry, chefs. Newspapers devote pages to recipes requiring exotic ingredients that have a size 12 carbon footprint. My mother would have been perplexed by a mango or guava. Reviewers eulogise overpriced and pretentious eateries.

Of course, food and its preparation only became a big deal when men got involved. Women didn’t make a big thing of it because they’d been doing it for centuries. As always, males over think and add several degrees of difficulty to anything that we do.

The barbecue for example, is simply the expression of the male ego. It’s the ultimate blokes’ pastime that delivers little other than indigestion. I can see the point of the barbie in places like Australia, where they don’t have to contend with wind and driving rain. Yet, the home-grown barbecue buff will have you believe that serving up sausages, burnt on the outside and raw in the middle, is akin to splitting the atom.

Nevertheless, it's great that many more men now cook. I even don the apron from time to time and accept there’s lots of pluses. For a start, it’s cheaper and much healthier than fast food. We know what has gone into it and that we washed our hands before preparing. En passant, when I eat out, I worry if I see the restaurant chef smoking at the back door. It’s probably just me, but then I wonder if he’s been to the toilet recently. About 50 years too late, I’ve discovered women go for men who can cook (and iron).

There are numerous books and online tutorials to help we aspiring male cooks. Some even target my age group. You Tube’s Old Man Cooking for example, boasts 70,000 subscribers. When Old Tom died in 2017, the spurtle passed to his son, Young Tom.

But, there are several flies in the soup. Firstly, it’s largely a middle-class thing. Many Scots struggle to feed their families, let alone obsess with fancy ingredients and recipes. Some homes lack even cookers and rely on the false economy of microwaves to heat ready-made meals. Preparation skills are lost as schools cut back on practical cookery due to cost and shortage of teachers. Theoretical “food technology” doesn’t cut the mustard.

For the sake of the nation’s health, central funds should be ring-fenced to ensure basic skills are taught to every youngster, starting in primary. As American chef and writer Julia Wild put it, “No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” I’m not sure though if my mum was the proof of that pudding.