Building A Catalogue Of Food Memories In SeattleWed 14 Nov 2012
Story by Jan Sailus
I have built a career and lifestyle around my love of food and interest in children. Years of living in rural Vermont with a limited variety of food in far away expensive stores, and a short growing season to gather from my garden to feed our three young children got me to think a certain way; what is plentiful now in stores (because that's typically freshest), what tastes and textures will my small children like, and what is the cost?
Building a Catalogue of Food Memories
I wanted to build a catalogue of food memories for my children. This youngest generation needs to be interested in what they are eating and care about how it tastes, where it came from, how it makes them feel, and how precious food really is.
In first joining The Childcare Center serving the employees at Seattle Children’s Hospital, I knew I had a very special job ahead of me. I would be feeding breakfast, lunch and snacks to over 100 children from the ages of 9 months to 5 years, and 30-40 educators a day.
Replacing Processed with Fresh
The first order of business was to phase out the prepared, canned and packaged food, replacing these pantry and freezer staples with cases of fresh vegetables and fruit and purchasing cases of fresh natural chicken and turkey instead of the processed versions that were used.
I began fabricating my own stocks, using fresh herbs for flavor and making my own vinaigrettes and sauces to replace the bottled versions. I phased in dried legumes, quinoa, lentils, barley and couscous. Baking from scratch replaced boxed baking mixes. I explored options for our special diet children by introducing gluten free and vegan option throughout the school and encouraged the magic lessons of the table, especially how serving food family style teaches a child to share to leave something for the next person.
I believe the more you know about where your food comes from the greater the pleasure. My husband and I raised our 3 daughters on a 10 acre farm in Vermont for ten years before moving out of state and our Vermont garden was a source of food, entertainment and pleasure year round. We learned so many lessons there that have inevitability transferred over to my career as a chef for small children. The old timers would share their knowledge and gardening expertise with the young families: what grows best? How do you stretch the short growing season by freezing and canning? When do you let plants go to seed? How can you share and trade seeds?
Our garden project at the Childcare Center (in which we have our own garden plot in a community garden a few blocks away from the child care center which we walk to twice a week to water and maintain the garden) involves not only maintaining a community garden plot; but also the learning and harvesting continue in the garden, on the playground (we also have a garden in the playground attached to the center) and in the classroom. The children water, weed and compost, we learn about insects and animals that live in the garden and how to respect the life cycle of all things growing.
I also teach the children about nutrition and cooking on a weekly basis. They come into the kitchen with their teachers, and we prepare assortment of different dishes, usually associated to something they are learning in the classroom.
Holding a Single Green Bean Starts a Child’s Magical Thinking
Sometimes it is about how they feel about food as they move from stage to stage during those early years. I am delighted to expose them to a variety of different fresh ingredients and flavors, and I couldn't be happier with the results!
About the author: Jan Sailus is a Certified Pastry Chef. Chef/Owned Something Special and Bakery Verbena. Her current passion is providing pre-school children the opportunity to plant, grow, harvest, cook and eat the very best kind of food; freshly grown, organic, unprocessed and delicious! She lives in Seattle Washington with her husband and their three taste testing daughters.
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