Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen OR Ode to Teachers

Every Wednesday is a challenge for me here at the bakery. It's my "Monday" since we're closed on Mondays and Tuesdays right now and there is always a lot to do to fill up the display cases and get fresh pastries, breads and savory lunch items out by noon or so. After two days of sleeping in I'm particularly foggy from waking up at 5am. It's also ordering day so I try to look at lists and what's on the shelves to figure out what we need for the next week or so by the 3pm deadline. But the fun doesn't stop there.

The last few Wednesdays have been complete mayhem. Why? Because somehow I got this idea to invite kids into the kitchen! We've already had four weeks of well attended classes and there will be three more after Thanksgiving. The younger ones, ages 5-8 come from 2-3:30 and the older ones, ages 8-12 from 3:30-5. So far we have made creepy Halloween treats, deviled eggs, homemade granola, sourdough corn cakes, and homemade butter. We have also learned about the basics of kitchen safety, nutrition and pioneer cooking.

On Wednesday at 7pm when we close and there is still the floor to mop, there is a small part of me that says NEVER AGAIN! There is also a big part of me that says THANK YOU to all teachers out there because I could never do this every day and I so appreciate those that have the ongoing energy, persistence and enthusiasm it takes to keep kids interested and engaged and somewhat under control.

Of course, there must be some part of me that enjoys it because I already have about 5 more kids classes I have thought about teaching starting in January, plus endless ideas for cooking classes for adults. In fact, despite the hours of preparation, the pushing and shoving, the "it's MY turn to mix" demands, the spills, the noise, the blank stares, and the "eeeeeew, that's yucky" reactions...teaching is really very rewarding.

All of the kids in my cooking classes are coming because they chose to. So, for the most part, they like to cook. They like to learn. They like to participate. Their enthusiasm for certain things is almost contagious. For example, this week in the Pioneer Cooking class, the work of grinding wheat by hand was a challenge to them and each HAD to have a second try at it to see how much flour they could grind (or to see who was the strongest). I have been pleasantly surprised that some are even excited to help clean up!

Inevitably I am left completely exhausted by the end of the day on Wednesday. My feet hurt. My mouth is dry from so much talking. I wonder if the class was clear, helpful, interesting, fun, memorable or just something else to do after school. I start thinking about the next class (Pizza Day) and what I should prepare for hand-outs, how I should divide up the groups, what might be dangerous and what I should make sure each child gets a chance to try. I ask parents for feedback. I thank my staff for putting up with the mayhem. I thank my family for trying to let me go to sleep early.

And, in some delusional state, somewhat secretly, I glance at the calendar and jot down a few ideas: a pie-crust class (watch for this one around Christmas - for adults), a bread sculpture class, a whole grain cooking class, a wood fired oven class, cooking around the world classes...

Sounds like fun, right? Or, is this some kind of masochistic disease? I am incredibly thankful not to have to teach every day - I have never been able to imagine myself homeschooling Oliver or substitute teaching at the local schools. But in a very small way, I can appreciate the addictive qualities teaching has: sharing ideas, getting people excited to try something new, focusing on one concept and learning about it myself in order to teach it, showing someone who wants to learn how to do something they didn't know how to do before.

Somehow, I don't have a graceful way to end this post. Perhaps because by default, teaching and learning have no end. There is and always will be something to new to learn. I must say, it makes these dark, cold winter days seem a little bit brighter.

For more pictures of the kids cooking classes, go here.

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