When 20 excited boys and girls gathered for the first day of cooking camp, I knew it would be a very exciting week.
Sharply at 10 a.m., I rang the bell and class began. Even though it was a hot summer morning, all were bright-eyed and alert — no sleepy ones in the mix. Silently, I was glad I had backup: Bev, Abbie, Paula and Vonnie — my very capable assistants.
Each day as class began, I carefully demonstrated how each recipe would be constructed, with ample time for questions. Then the serious cooking started after a round of diligent hand washing.
One of the favorite recipes was mashed potatoes. With children lined up around my 17-foot teaching counter, each armed with a potato and a peeler, together we learned how to safely peel a potato. We peeled 10 pounds of russet potatoes in no time.
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Into the pot they went, and a short time later, we mashed them with a generous dollop of butter and a splash of cream, seasoned with salt and pepper. The children devoured them.
One little boy announced that the mashed potatoes tasted “as good as ice cream!” Even children can tell the difference between real mashed potatoes and the instant variety, which pleased me.
Although children can be picky eaters, we witnessed none of that. After making the food, they could not wait to taste it and were eager to make it at home. As parents delivered children the next day, I heard glowing reports of what the children had cooked for them.
At the end of class on Tuesday, I announced that the theme for the next day would be “Camp Out.” Little Mandy asked if my house was big enough for all of them to come over and camp out! Immediately, I knew I had to clarify my point — the theme was making food for a camp-out. No, we would not actually be camping out at my house — or anywhere else.
To have the children so receptive and imaginative made for a very rewarding week. The kids left wanting more. I think we have started a new tradition for next summer.
Although our summer cooking camp is over, children will still enjoy cooking in their own kitchens. Here are some tips for teaching children in your own kitchen:
* Allow children to help with meal preparation. Very young children may start with setting the table, while older ones can take on more advanced tasks.
* Always teach safety as you go to avoid cuts and burns.
* Hand washing is mandatory before starting to cook and also after handling raw meat, fish and poultry.
* Let the child know your rules for your own kitchen. A young child will need help when doing many kitchen tasks; older children will be able to accomplish more on their own, depending upon their skill level and training.