Updated: Jan 30, 2020
Have you ever had a child struggle with understanding math? Science? Reading comprehension? Even self esteem or confidence? Cooking ties it all together.
Have you ever had a child struggle with fractions or volume? Cooking brings math into real life. Cooking makes it FUN. I love quizzing the kids...."Ok, if we don't have a teaspoon, how many of these 1/4 teaspoons will we need to make one teaspoon?" Their eyes light up when they get a high five once they realize they've got the correct answer.
Cooking, especially baking, is a science. Various measurements of ingredients will radically change the outcome. Students given the room to experiment with food will experience what happens when different variables are introduced. Chemistry anyone? Try mixing vinegar and baking soda for cleaning. It's magical.
"HOW does this thing work?", one child asked when trying to figure out how a spiralizer works. Before class Chef Denise, our Culinary Educator at Cunningham, mentioned that all the kitchen tools had to be engineered at some point. I thought she had an excellent point, so as I showed him how it worked, I said, "This gadget was engineered to help you turn vegetables....in to noodles!" The student looked at the spiralizer with a renewed sense of wonder. I could see the wheels spinning. Could he have been thinking, "Maybe I could make something like this one day."?
Reading a recipe is a skill. According to Chef Alton Brown, you first sit down, read the recipe, then read it again. What is being asked of each ingredient? Keep in mind that a half cup of basil, chopped, is not the same thing has half cup of chopped basil.
In commercial kitchens, there typically isn't one guy or gal in the back churning out every single dish. A kitchen works like a symphony, each instrument working together to create a finished piece of music that's so beautiful it could make you cry. There are different personalities, different feelings, different backgrounds, and different experiences each day.
In today's world, where everyone's face is buried in their phone/laptop/iPad, this is a chance for kids to look at each other, and figure out who is going to do what for which part of the recipe. They help each other when someone gets stuck, and they learn a sense of empathy that they'll never gain from doing a project by themselves at their desk.
The kids in our classes are Generation Z. They've grown up with technology. It's up to us to help them and their brains find a balance with the power of technology, with the ability to shut it off, focus and be in the moment.
The children that are able to do this will excel in the future because they'll have the ability to consciously choose where to put their focus. They'll be more productive and will be more successful in life. This generation is set to be more entrepreneurial than even Millennials. Cooking classes give them the ability to focus on what they're creating, and then enjoy the outcome in the moment.
Self Confidence and Self Esteem
"I CAN do it!" "This IS good!" "I've never chopped a tomato!" (As the child is finishing up slicing a pint of tomatoes.) "I've never stirred anything!"
These are all phrases I've heard from children in our classes. It's important for kids to learn to tackle uncertainty, participate, and experience what it's like to create something from nothing. The self esteem they build in the classes will carry over into all areas of their lives.
Mistakes Happen, That's Life, We Roll With It
At the same time they're building confidence and self esteem, they're learning important life lessons that mistakes will happen....and it will be ok. Sometimes we add waaaaay too much vinegar to our green bean salad. And sometimes we realize that half a bottle of vanilla extract isn't actually better than half teaspoon and we're gonna have to start over.....and it will be ok.
A Lifetime of Health
I recently shared a study from the University of Alberta that kids are 10% more likely to choose veggies if they've been exposed to cooking classes.
The link between diet and disease is clear. What we eat can either protect us against, or put us at risk for heart disease, diabetes, auto immune issues, certain types of cancer, and more. Though we want our kids to choose more foods with fiber, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, it is important to create a culture of fun and positivity. Talk about adding more fresh, whole foods instead of cutting foods out. By discussing the benefits of eating this way, making the foods themselves, and tasting them, they'll see the value of eating, enjoy eating it, and reap the long term benefits.
Passion and Joy
How many people do you know that have not found their passion? They go to work, check out social media, watch the news, drop off the dry cleaning, grab dinner, then do it all over again.
I've heard over and over again from people in all walks of life that their lives are like Groundhog Day. What if they had something they could be passionate about? Instead of watching as much news, or scrolling through social media, they used that time to buy some healthy food from the grocery store, put on some music, lit a candle, and enjoyed making a healthful meal. Their mindset made it relaxing. As they set the meal down in front of friends, family, or even themselves, they take just a moment to savor the first bite. It was a meal created from scratch, with love.
The next day they find themselves searching Pinterest for the next recipe, they start talking with people about it in line to get toilet paper. They've found something to be passionate about and find joy in their creation.
Cooking is becoming a lost art. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier, but so many of us have found we have even less time. One of our goals with the cooking classes is to help kids find the joy and passion of learning to cook. And maybe the kids will bring a little of it home for you too. :)
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