For 10 weeks, since our after-school cooking classes began at Lawton Elementary, Kimberly Luu had been talking about having her mom come in to make her favorite soup, the Vietnamese rice noodle soup called pho.
But it was never entirely clear her mom was on board. "I think she wants to, I'm not sure," Kim would say.
Even though the party didn't start till 5 p.m., Christian McKinney's grandmother and younger brother were waiting in the lobby of Lawton Elementary School at 3.
"Do you want to help in the kitchen?" I asked Brandon, 9.
'Do you know what processed food is?" I asked the fifth graders at Henry Lawton Elementary, where I've been teaching cooking classes.
I had just seen Fed Up, the heartbreaking documentary on America's addiction to processed food, and I felt compelled to talk about it.
Makes 6 servings
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2½ pounds) tender removed, cut into thirds
The first one to burst through the door for after-school cooking class at Lawton Elementary - as usual - is Christian McKinney, this week sporting a fresh mohawkish buzz-cut.
He wastes no time: he glances at the recipe, sizes up the ingredients on the stainless steel prep table, and starts right in, peeling, then chopping the garlic. If I didn't insist that he save some jobs for the others, he might get through most of the work before they even arrive.
"Nick is so excited for the fish curry today," he said. "What kind of fish are we cooking?"
Ratatouille was on the menu for our after-school cooking class, and the fifth-grade cooks were eager to try the dish they knew about because of the eponymous Disney film - especially since the movie version of this vegetable stew was so good it melted the heart of the evil food critic, reminding him of his mother's home cooking.
Indeed, ratatouille is a staple of French home cooking; it is served in school cafeterias and is a dish French children love.
But they may not have loved it the first time they tried it, I told the Lawton elementary students. As I learned in the book French Kids Eat Everything, French parents know that taste buds take time to develop. If children don't like a dish, parents encourage them to keep tasting until they learn to appreciate it.