December 18, 2015 |
The students from Wiggins Prep Elementary in Camden were wound up for their last day of cooking class: They'd be preparing dinner for parents, siblings, and guests, showing off the skills they'd learned over the last seven weeks. And their excitement was bubbling over. The teachers were having issues of their own. "I just want to let you know what we are working with today," said Edith Bobb, one of the three teachers who have helped with the class. Dawn Wilson had put on two different-colored socks that morning, and Susan Lore came to school wearing two different shoes.
October 30, 2015 |
José Rios, a fifth grader at Wiggins Prep Elementary school in Camden, had a pressing question as he arrived for his second week of healthy-cooking classes: "Are we going to make a cake? Can we, please?" After such success with banana-zucchini muffins for our first class, I hoped this group would be open to lots of fruits and vegetables. José hoped it was the first of many baked treats. "We'll make dessert for our last class, when we invite your families," I said. "Dessert is special, not for every meal.
October 23, 2015
Blessed Trinity The sixth graders were eager to learn. Our muffin recipe called for grated zucchini, and four of the students had never tried it before. The students' post-comments: "amazing" and "awesome. " Allyson Velez said it was her first time baking and, "It was pretty memorable. " Jenna Welsh said, "We used teamwork, we each took turns. I enjoyed cooking with my friends. " - Glenn Petrucci TeamUp Philly/ Shepard Rec Center Riley Brown thought the class would be "much more basic" and was delighted to learn we would be preparing a healthy meal in our very first class.
October 23, 2015 |
'Do you eat breakfast before school in the morning?" I asked the fifth graders at Wiggins Prep Elementary School in Camden. "No," said Aa'myrah Bethea, 10. "I get up and put my uniform on, then I get back in bed till my mom calls me. " Aa'myrah, who prefers to be called Coco, is not unlike many kids her age who would gladly skip breakfast for a few more minutes of sleep. So on the first of eight weeks of classes teaching kids how to prepare simple, delicious, healthy meals, breakfast was Lesson One. This fall, we are cooking at the well-used kitchen of Baptist Temple Church, the 98-year-old stone stalwart on South Fourth Street in Camden across from the public school, where there was no kitchen option.
May 15, 2015 |
Five starched new aprons were lined up on the counter outside the kitchen, one for each student arriving for the last cooking class at Roberto Clemente Middle School in North Philadelphia. Sharon Ward, the food service worker who had been cooking with us all semester, had surprised each student with a gift of a new apron, and not the white standard issue but brightly colored ones they had wished for in class. The kids spotted them and dashed with excitement to pick their color.
April 17, 2015 |
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?"
October 30, 2014 |
The new commercial kitchen at the Free Library of Philadelphia is, by far, the most beautiful, tricked-out kitchen in which I've ever cooked. We made lovely meals in the simple convent kitchen at St. Martin de Porres in North Philadelphia when the after-school cooking program began in 2012, and then in the public school cafeteria kitchens the following fall and spring. As the program grew over the last two years, with volunteers cooking in schools in Philadelphia and Camden, some classes made feasts with just an electric frying pan. The point is, you don't need a high-end kitchen and fancy equipment to cook a nice dinner.
May 2, 2014 |
With sugary, salty, addictive junk food everywhere, it's a challenge to persuade kids not to indulge. Of course, they've heard about eating fruits and vegetables. But in our healthy-cooking class at Lawton Elementary, I tried to appeal to their fifth-grade values: good looks, good grades, athletic prowess. Eating healthy food gives you more energy, makes you look better, helps your brain work better, makes your body respond better at sports, I told them. "It's like a car," I said.
November 9, 2013 |
My birthday is Sept. 21, and when I was a child, my mom would sometimes call me "the last rose of summer. " It was a sweet turn of phrase, but just an ordinary one for my mom. With her melodic Irish accent, she delighted people with virtually anything she said. My mom was raised on an Irish country road that led to the rocky coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Her family raised chickens, grew vegetables, and tended roses. She could run up and down the verdant green hills, or dip her toes in the sea. She truly lived in nature, and could never get enough of it. When she and my father came to America in the 1960s, they were lucky enough to land in Elmira, N.Y. A river ran through our town, giving her miles of banks for walking.
October 25, 2013 |
The five young chefs were ready with their cookbooks and cutting boards when I arrived for our second class at Bayard Taylor Elementary in North Philadelphia. "What's boo-ca . . . ti-ni?" said Bianca Perez, 11, sounding out the first word in the recipe for our second meal, bucatini with spicy summer squash and white beans. "It's a kind of pasta," I said, digging into the bag of groceries to show them. "It's a little thicker than spaghetti but hollow in the middle. " In addition to teaching these fifth graders healthy, inexpensive recipes for the next two months, I wanted to introduce them to different foods.