The New American Classroom: Farm-To-School Cooking
by Carrie Fehr
As we have become distant with our relationship to food, cooking at school offers children the opportunity to experience food in a completely new way, weighing each word, measuring each ingredient— it captivates all of their senses and highlights the love of food that nourishes the body, soothes the heart, and stimulates the mind while connecting them to the source. Cooking in the classroom provide schools with a new opportunity, a new responsibility to play a leading role, of participating in shaping a healthy future that our children will inherit.
The following excerpt is about a day in the life of cooking in the classroom at The Berkeley Unified School District, where the lesson spotlights the Harvest of Greens.
Love is Greens: Since Valentine’s Day is celebrated during the same month as the Harvest of Greens cooking class, we share our feelings of love and how it relates to our nature’s bounty, which is a natural and perfect springboard into our lesson, Love is Greens!
Setting the Stage: The culinary stage is set with table arrangements of tools, measurements, colorful mats, and mason jar centerpieces filled with harvest greens, which look like a still life against the backdrop of blue-and-white checkered bistro tablecloths illuminated from the sunlight that pours into the room like honey, transforming a bland space into a vibrant cooking lab. The drama of the table setting announces the cooking adventure, and students dance with excitement into the classroom.
The Symphony: The elements of cooking, math, and science come together like a beautiful symphony, with each section keeping tempo and harmonizing with the next. Beginning with the rhythmic staccato of chopping garlic against the cutting board, followed by the smooth rolling movement of knives slicing long cylinders of leafy greens that squeak, when very fresh. Students dangle thin ribbons of chard between excited fingers, placing them along the edge of their rulers, admiring each strand as though it was a special star before recording the longest and shortest measurement on a notepad. The grand finale erupts when a round of applause from the skillet of sizzling greens piled high like Mt. Everest, reach its crescendo that make students, jump! “Steam.“ “Evaporation.” “It’s Shrinking,” are a few of the excited responses students shout with joy. And then softly like a distant murmur that melts into silence, an unspoken signal to all, it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labor, in the recipe, Mac N’ Greens.
Silver Lining: Mac N’ Greens formerly known as, The Pasta and Greens Recipe, morphed into a little jewel, due to an unfortunate circumstance. The supermarket where I grocery shop, was sold out of my pasta of choice, and as a result, I settled on elbow macaroni. When I arrived to cooking class with the macaroni, my student’s eyes poured over with excitement and cheered in unison, “Yes, we’re making Mac N’ Cheese,” the idea stuck and I re-named it, Mac N’ Greens, a kid-friendlier version, which was an instant success. I like the ease of preparation of this recipe it’s healthy with inexpensive ingredients and tasty! Greens are a nutritional powerhouse too, mix and match for a contrast of flavors and textures, Collards, Chard, Kale, or add a little Broccoli Rabe for good measure. To make a creamier version, try some grated sharp cheddar cheese, and for a little crunch, top it with toasted breadcrumbs.
Carrie Fehr begins her twelfth year as Chef Teacher for the cooking & gardening program in the Berkeley Unified School District. When not teaching or writing on her food blog, http://www.carriefehr.com. Carrie practices Bikram yoga, and devotes many hours to cycling. She is an advocate for school food reform and is working on a book about her cooking lessons learned from the classroom. The New American Classroom: Farm-To-School Cooking In Berkeley was featured in Fedupwithlunch.com