Young chefs in training

Onions, spinach and bean sprouts may not be typical conversation for first and second graders but for those in Marsha Van Walden’s summer cooking class veggies were the hot topic.

“Can I give you a cooking tip?” asked student Alisa Chung. “When you cook you can’t eat everything. I don’t know why — it’s just a thing I learned.”

Words of advice well taken as the students prepared their stir fry meal. The class titled “Cooking Around the World” has children preparing, cooking and eating meals that very from stir-fry to Hungarian meatballs. Added by teachers’ aides Janice Byers and Elisabeth Roybal the students are split into groups, each being allowed to chop and measure their ingredients. The students stand back when it is time to move to the oven, due to the old appliance and small kitchen space.

“We call it the evil kitchen,” Van Walden joked.

“Now we have to quarter the mushrooms,” Van Walden explained. “So how many pieces will that be?”

“Four,” the children yell in unison.

Van Walden said that the class helps the students understand a little math through measurements but it also helps them develop teamwork skills and teaches them responsibility.

“They have to clean the area when they have finished,” she said. “And they have to listen to instructions and follow a recipe.”

“It’s fun. And really fun when you get to eat,” said Miles Haston.

Student Elliot Rosenthal said that he likes learning the recipes so he can try them out at home.

Each day a chef of the day is chosen. On July 18, the designated chef was Bridget Koehler who rang the dinner bell, which was not only a signal to eat but also to keep quiet and pay attention.

“I also take attendance,” Koehler said.

“She is like the boss,” added Andrew Brocs.

“And pass papers,” Koehler continued.

“Like the boss,” Brocs said again.

Almost all of the vegetables used in the class are purchased from local farmers markets. The students are always reminded where the produce comes from and how easy it is to find fresh, good quality vegetables so close by, Van Walden said.

She also reminds students of what will make good compost instead of throwing everything away in the garbage.

The students also learn that some vegetables are stronger than others, as Alisa learned when she was cutting the onions. Tears fell from her eyes as she chopped and wiped.

“They’re strong,” she said. “You have to be really careful with onions.”

Another culinary lesson learned.

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