Interdependence Day: Food In The FamilyFri 29 Jun 2012
Story by Kathleen Yetman
This week I will spend the Fourth of July at my parents’ house in Prescott, Arizona. We’ll watch the Kiddie Parade downtown on Friday morning, go for a hike over the weekend, and on Wednesday afternoon, we’ll make our traditional Independence Day dinner. My dad will grill hamburgers and I will bake the buns; my mom will make her classic potato salad (my great-grandmother’s recipe!); my sister and I will shuck corn to steam and harvest lettuce and tomatoes from the garden for a salad; and we’ll all take turns cranking the handle on our old White Mountain Ice Cream Maker.
We will all contribute something to the meal because that’s how it’s always been in my family. I am grateful to have been raised with a strong connection to food. My parents and grandparents created a healthy environment in which we were encouraged to participate in every aspect of the food we ate. I spent a great deal of my early childhood in my grandmother’s garden pulling weeds, harvesting sugar snap peas, picking raspberries and strawberries and popping them right into my mouth. My family ate breakfast and dinner together every day. My father taught me how to cook, and my mother how to bake, and I was always expected to help prepare meals in some way or another. I remember how proud I felt the first time I made dinner for my whole family. I remember the joy of watching my spit-out watermelon seeds sprout into little plants then grow into baby watermelons. I remember how much better the vanilla ice cream tasted because I had helped to turn the handle. These are the beautiful, impressionable experiences that I am reminded of every day as a FoodCorps service member.
Teaching Children the Joy in Cooking, Gardening, and Eating Real Food
I think of these values and experiences and how important they are for children to learn so that they can grow up to be self-sustaining, healthy adults. Last week I facilitated an Iron Chef type activity with 60 junior and high school students. The majority of the kids had little to no experience with cooking and had never tasted the garlic, kale, and brown rice that they were required to use. After teaching them about the nutrition found in the three “key ingredients” and a crash-course on knife safety and cooking 101, we sent them off to create their own unique recipes. My expectations were blown out of the water. Not only did all the dishes turn out okay, but most of them were actually good. Tasting them was a treat, but what was really rewarding was the look on every student’s face: pride. They were so proud of themselves for cooking something all on their own.
It brought tears to my eyes when one boy came back after they had been dismissed and asked if he could take his dish home to his family—the winning dish, I might add, and also the dish that had the most green vegetables in it! Not only did they all learn valuable skills and gain knowledge, most importantly they left with a sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
It is moments like this that remind me why I chose to be a FoodCorps service member. I am so grateful to share my own experiences with children so that they too can find joy in cooking, gardening, and eating real food. It is my hope--and I’m willing to bet--that this Wednesday while I am cooking and baking alongside my mother and father, some of those kids are doing the same.
About the author: Kathleen Yetman is a FoodCorps service member at the Elementary School in Cibecue, AZ, where she is planting, maintaining and harvesting the edible school garden; providing gardening lessons to elementary school kids; and teaching a science-based gardening curriculum. Starting this August she will be a FoodCorps fellow.
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