"Shrimp!" called out Angelica Marrero, 10, raising her fists in celebration as she entered the kitchen. She and her classmates at Sacred Heart School in Camden had been looking forward to this cooking lesson: shrimp with lemon garlic linguine. "I'm so excited for shrimp," she said.
The students had flipped ahead in their cookbooks to see what recipes they would be making during the eight-week healthy-cooking class, and this was the one they were all waiting for. Last week, when Bryson Barnes, 10, said his mom made the dish with broccoli instead of peas, the other students wished for broccoli, too.
So the volunteers, Ruth Biemer and Sylvia Wilson, two retired elementary-school teachers with decades of experience, taught the children a lesson before the class even started: A recipe need not be followed to the letter. If you like broccoli better than peas - use broccoli.
I wrote about another class at Sacred Heart School in Camden this week, but the girls at Roberto Clemente did a fabulous job with the shrimp linguine. And they loved it.
My Daughter's Kitchen The My Daughter's Kitchen cooking program, founded by Philadelphia Inquirer Food Editor Maureen Fitzgerald, spends eight weeks at Roberto Clemente Middle School -- one of 20 schools participating this year -- to teach kids simple, easy, nutritious and delicious meals to make at home. ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer ) Philly.com
The most rewarding part of teaching kids to cook is watching them progress. They not only build very practical skills in the kitchen - learning how to hold a knife, chop onions, peel carrots, sauté and roast - they also learn to keep an open mind. They learn to be willing to try something new. And they are often surprised at how much they enjoy things they never thought they would.
Two weeks ago, when we were making honey mustard chicken wings with eighth graders at Roberto Clemente Middle School, Emily Gonzalez lamented: "I don't like mustard, can I have mine plain?" And Jodallis Pabon announced: "I don't eat cooked vegetables."
The Philadelphia Montessori Charter School is housed in a former city rec center on the corner of Island and Saybrook Avenues in Southwest Philadelphia. The grand, weathered old brick building has been retrofitted into a thriving elementary school for about 170 children, mostly from the neighborhood.
The kindergarten classroom there, equipped with nothing but a sink and a convection microwave oven, serves as a teaching kitchen for after-school cooking classes twice a week. The sixth graders squeeze into chairs meant for children half their age, prepping and measuring ingredients at the tiny classroom table to prepare easy, healthy dinners from the My Daughter's Kitchen cooking program.