'This looks like fish food," said Mark Ramirez, when he opened the bag of lentils we would be using to make soup. "Or the stuff you feed the ducks at the zoo."
None of the fifth graders in the cooking class at Bayard Taylor Elementary School in North Philadelphia had ever had lentils.
Wissahickon Charter School
We divided up the tasks: cutting carrots, garlic, parsley, and onions, rinsing lentils, and stirring both the vegetable saute and the soup. We also had a salad with sliced apples, raisin, nut and sunflower seed mix, onions, and red leaf lettuce. We did have some extra time so we looked at a color-coded graphic that shows how healthy meals contain vegetables and fruit on about half of the plate, the other half is divided into one-fourth protein, one-fourth whole grains. Students will try to design a healthy menu from favorite foods or food we have cooked in class.
We ate the soup out of the best bargain bowls I could find: a set of storage containers with lids. The kids were elated to take home leftovers in their very own bowls. The Abruzzese Lentil Soup was very well received. The grated Parmesan, a popular addition to many of our recipes, added to the appeal. It may well be the most popular of all of the recipes so far.
Dear Maureen Fitzgerald,
I have never written to a newspaper columnist before, but I felt the need to tell you how much I am enjoying your articles about the kids learning cooking (and eating) skills. The articles are so uplifting. I look forward to following these culinary adventures every week. What I really feel in these columns is what is so lacking in other articles and in our world in general: it is all about love! Thank you so much for what you are giving and for sharing it with the rest of us.
Sincerely, Barbara Jaffe
The good news: Bianca Perez announced that she made the chicken and spinach quesadillas she learned in class for her family last week!
The bad news: A plastic bag left in our school kitchen with half a bag of chips, half a bag of pretzels, and a package of snowball cupcakes was described as a "breakfast/lunch combo," as in, half eaten for breakfast, the rest for lunch, as a veteran teacher told me.
And right there, in those two moments, was the essence of the struggle: To persuade children to depart from the cheap, easy, addictive snack foods often eaten as meals in favor of not-so-hard-to-make healthy fare that is cheap and great-tasting too.
Community Partnership School
We unwrapped the salmon and there was no fishy smell coming from the bright red fish. I had insisted on fresh fish at the market because I wanted it to be a positive experience. Now that is how fish is supposed to be!
We didn’t have any tarragon, but subsituted some herbes de provence for the tarragon, which we mixed with the lemon zest. It smelled wonderful. Everyone wanted to taste the zest, only a tiny bit, because it has a bit of bitterness to it. I love how they want to try everything.
There was plenty of excitement as we removed the salmon packets from the oven and each cook carefully opened theirs and spooned some quinoa into the juices. They loved it! It was astonishing to watch these 10-year-olds making sure they had a bit of everything on their forks and eating salmon and spinach.
—Adrian Seltzer and Katherine Rapin
Although we wanted to buy regular spinach so the kids could cut and stem, we ended up buying baby spinach which only needed to be washed. For the rice part of the meal, we decided to do a Parmesan risotto, which kept the kids occupied while the fish cooked. This added a new skill — patience — while stirring the stock into the rice. The kids loved the end result.
— Diane Fanelli and Barbara Krumbhaar
Young Scholars Douglass
This week we prepared salmon with spinach and cream with quinoa. We decided to use the quinoa, thinking they had less exposure to quinoa than rice. We showed them the difference between dried tarragon and fresh tarragon, both in shape and smell.
As the students put their packets together, I explained that with most recipes, you get specific amounts, but here the measurements didn’t need to be precise.
There was some squeamishness in picking up the fillets. The students wondered about the skin on the back of each fillet. We told them when the fish was cooked, the skin would come off easily and they didn't need to worry about eating it. We added the cream and sealed the packets. Each marked a packet with their initials so they could eat the packet they prepared.
For the most part, the students agreed they could make this dish for their families. Most liked the fish, but one boy was not fond of it.
So, the girls took the remainder off his plate in very short order!
— Lyn Stein
Just a quick note to tell you that I've been following the series of articles about teaching cooking skills to the kids at Bayard Taylor Elementary School for several weeks now, and it has quickly become my very favorite column in the Thursday Food & Dining section!
Now, I'm a 66 y.o. married man, but I've always loved eating, and have had to do a fair amount of cooking for myself over the years (my wife's a magnificent cook, but she's a busy lady!) and have always enjoyed doing those cooking tasks I've mastered, limited tho' they may be...perhaps it's because of this, the cooking adventures you detail seem very "relatable" to me, and liking kids as well, the palpable excitement they radiate about learning here is wonderful.