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A Higher Education: Learning to Cook

Posted Nov 04 2009 10:03pm
your basic pot of beans

a pot of beans

by Vera Fabian

I recently finished my 2 nd year as a Garden Teacher at The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA.  I was preparing for a big move across country and a big goodbye to hundreds of students I had come to know and love while working alongside them in the garden and the kitchen classroom.  Many of them were preparing themselves for the move to high school and the goodbye to 3 years at King Middle School.  During our last class with the graduating 8 th graders, we asked them to share one thing they had learned in their time at The Edible Schoolyard that they would continue to do in life beyond middle school.

Contrary to what you might expect from typical 13 and 14 year olds, these students replied with astonishing maturity and vision: “I will continue to cook delicious food.”  “I will keep eating fruits and vegetables.” “I will teach my family how to grow real food.” “When I get to college and don’t have much money I will make sushi for myself and my friends.”

Really?  Yes, really.  Here’s a kid, with his voice cracking and his hat on backwards who, in the 8 th grade, is declaring that he will not be like other college students who don’t know how to fend for themselves.  He will make do with what he has and cook up some rice and chop up some vegetables and roll up some sushi. And he says it with confidence and pride as if he knows what a valuable skill he has under his belt.  He knows that he will not only be able to feed himself on a budget, but he will be the cool kid who can make sushi.  He will feed people and those people will then be his friends.

Right here we have proof that every child in this country should have a chance to learn how to grow, cook, and share real food together around a table.  An Edible Education like this teaches the next generation to make the critical connection between the food they eat and the health of themselves, their community, and the land.  Being healthy suddenly becomes something fun and cool, something you want to share with your family and friends.

But what about all of us who weren’t so lucky to receive an Edible Education?  Those of us who belong to the generation that is supposed to make it through college on late night bowls of cereal or freshly microwaved Cup O’Noodles.   While we spend four years and thousands of dollars enriching our minds, we all too often forget to nourish our bodies.  You walk the halls of American dormitories, and I’m certain you’ll find plenty of televisions blaring with the glint and gleam of The Food Network and plenty of students discussing what they’d like to eat for dinner, but few who will brave the shared kitchen to cook.

This is no big surprise.  There are papers to write, classes to attend, and parties to throw.  You’re tired and overbooked and so are all your friends.  And maybe, you never really learned how to cook.  Regardless, there’s just no time for it.

DSC_0355

a simple but percect meal, loved by me and my students

Here, on campuses around America, we must begin to make the time for learning the everyday life lessons of the kitchen.  There is time for cooking when it is recognized as a common-sense course in economics, geography, ethics, and sociology.  There is time for cooking when it forces you to get up from the laptop and use your hands and stretch your ability to create.  And there is time for cooking when it brings old friends together and sparks new friendships.

Children make excellent students of Edible Education because they are hungry and courageous and willing to admit ignorance.  When let loose in the kitchen, they readily own up to not knowing how to do something and bravely get busy figuring out how to do it.  They happily teach others what they have learned because they know that shared work is light work and in no time, there will be delicious food on the table to eat.

College students should likewise make excellent students in the kitchen because there is no one hungrier.  Nothing burns calories like hours studying in the library.  But our challenge is to be both brave and humble.  We cannot be intimidated by the televised food world of fancy ingredients, expensive gadgets, and glossy presentation.  Nor can we be unwilling to recognize that we have all grown up without a basic understanding of what it means to really cook. Instead we must empower eachother in our edible education.  Ask questions and offer advice. Tell your best tricks and confess your most ridiculous mistakes.  And in the end, confidently share the fruits of your labor amongst friends.  Take comfort in knowing they’re hungry. So take up your spoon, turn up the flame, and by the time you graduate, you’ll have yourself some good friends and a solid education.

your basic pot of beans

a pot of beans

by Vera Fabian

I recently finished my 2 nd year as a Garden Teacher at The Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA.  I was preparing for a big move across country and a big goodbye to hundreds of students I had come to know and love while working alongside them in the garden and the kitchen classroom.  Many of them were preparing themselves for the move to high school and the goodbye to 3 years at King Middle School.  During our last class with the graduating 8 th graders, we asked them to share one thing they had learned in their time at The Edible Schoolyard that they would continue to do in life beyond middle school.

Contrary to what you might expect from typical 13 and 14 year olds, these students replied with astonishing maturity and vision: “I will continue to cook delicious food.”  “I will keep eating fruits and vegetables.” “I will teach my family how to grow real food.” “When I get to college and don’t have much money I will make sushi for myself and my friends.”

Really?  Yes, really.  Here’s a kid, with his voice cracking and his hat on backwards who, in the 8 th grade, is declaring that he will not be like other college students who don’t know how to fend for themselves.  He will make do with what he has and cook up some rice and chop up some vegetables and roll up some sushi. And he says it with confidence and pride as if he knows what a valuable skill he has under his belt.  He knows that he will not only be able to feed himself on a budget, but he will be the cool kid who can make sushi.  He will feed people and those people will then be his friends.

Right here we have proof that every child in this country should have a chance to learn how to grow, cook, and share real food together around a table.  An Edible Education like this teaches the next generation to make the critical connection between the food they eat and the health of themselves, their community, and the land.  Being healthy suddenly becomes something fun and cool, something you want to share with your family and friends.

But what about all of us who weren’t so lucky to receive an Edible Education?  Those of us who belong to the generation that is supposed to make it through college on late night bowls of cereal or freshly microwaved Cup O’Noodles.   While we spend four years and thousands of dollars enriching our minds, we all too often forget to nourish our bodies.  You walk the halls of American dormitories, and I’m certain you’ll find plenty of televisions blaring with the glint and gleam of The Food Network and plenty of students discussing what they’d like to eat for dinner, but few who will brave the shared kitchen to cook.

This is no big surprise.  There are papers to write, classes to attend, and parties to throw.  You’re tired and overbooked and so are all your friends.  And maybe, you never really learned how to cook.  Regardless, there’s just no time for it.

DSC_0355

a simple but percect meal, loved by me and my students

Here, on campuses around America, we must begin to make the time for learning the everyday life lessons of the kitchen.  There is time for cooking when it is recognized as a common-sense course in economics, geography, ethics, and sociology.  There is time for cooking when it forces you to get up from the laptop and use your hands and stretch your ability to create.  And there is time for cooking when it brings old friends together and sparks new friendships.

Children make excellent students of Edible Education because they are hungry and courageous and willing to admit ignorance.  When let loose in the kitchen, they readily own up to not knowing how to do something and bravely get busy figuring out how to do it.  They happily teach others what they have learned because they know that shared work is light work and in no time, there will be delicious food on the table to eat.

College students should likewise make excellent students in the kitchen because there is no one hungrier.  Nothing burns calories like hours studying in the library.  But our challenge is to be both brave and humble.  We cannot be intimidated by the televised food world of fancy ingredients, expensive gadgets, and glossy presentation.  Nor can we be unwilling to recognize that we have all grown up without a basic understanding of what it means to really cook. Instead we must empower eachother in our edible education.  Ask questions and offer advice. Tell your best tricks and confess your most ridiculous mistakes.  And in the end, confidently share the fruits of your labor amongst friends.  Take comfort in knowing they’re hungry. So take up your spoon, turn up the flame, and by the time you graduate, you’ll have yourself some good friends and a solid education.

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