It's not enough to get kids to just fork down their vegetables. I want them to embrace carrots and onions and peas, to get excited about green beans and sweet potatoes and beets.
So my plan for the fourth cooking class at Henry Lawton Elementary School was to take familiar vegetables and prepare them in an unfamiliar way.
I chose a soup made with onion, carrots, and sweet potatoes to demonstrate how different vegetables can feel in your mouth when made a certain way, in this case, all blended together; and how different they can taste when seasoned with spices, in this case curry and paprika.
I should have known, when the sun was shining brightly on the first perfect spring afternoon after so many wicked winter days, that it would be tough for 10-year-olds to focus on cooking.
On top of that, my fifth grade chefs had just completed six days of PSSA testing at Henry Lawton Elementary and they were having a hard time standing still, much less concentrating on one recipe - let alone two.
Frankly, it would have been a good day to make scrambled eggs.
Even before the others had shed their backpacks and donned their aprons, Nick Rodriguez, 10, was smashing a clove of garlic, slamming his fist on the flat side of a knife, at our second cooking class at Henry Lawton Elementary. Yes, he said, without looking up, he had already peeled it.
"Hey! I want a turn!" said Christian McKinney, 11, feeling like he was missing out.
"Hang on, guys," I said. While I was thrilled with the enthusiasm and the smashing skill retained from class the week before, I wanted to remind them to read the entire recipe before plowing in.
My Daughter's Kitchen has taken on a life of its own!
What started as a blog to help my daughter do more of her own cooking has turned into an after-school program with 20 volunteers in 10 schools teaching 50 children to cook this spring.
What started as a lament that cooking has become a lost art, and then a challenge to come up with easy, healthy, cheap recipes, evolved a year ago into cooking classes at St. Martin de Porres in North Philadelphia.
As I walked through the front door at Henry W. Lawton School with five students in tow, all of us lugging pots and pans and bags of groceries, the school police officer stopped us cold.
"Hey, hey, wait a minute," said Raymond Mahon, getting up from his desk and blocking our passage. "What's all this? Where are you going?"
"Cooking class," I said, explaining that I had checked in earlier before retrieving the children to help me carry stuff from my car.