- Chiffon cake is really fun to make, particularly beating the egg whites separately with a little sugar so that they “poof up into a cloud.” More than one student wanted to dive into that bowl, it looked so much like a cozy blanket.
- That caramel layer? Man, I don’t know what we did, our caramel ended up hard and chewy – and yummy. We warmed it in a double boiler the next day to soften it, and even though we weren’t completely in on the idea of caramel and lemon, that caramel layer? IT MADE THE CAKE.
- I’ve never seen so many students smile here as we blow-torched the outer meringue.
- Tri-color Lasagne with Housemade Pasta & Sauces
- Vegetarian Tuscan Soup
- Mock-Caeser Salad
What also came out of it was that first glimmer of hospitality. We sent a plate up to our main office and yes, the positive cheers from up there hit home. Immediate sense of accomplishment and more.
When someone likes your food, it goes straight to your heart, right next to how it feels when someone cooks for you. It can hook you into becoming a chef or loving to work in a restaurant. But even if it doesn’t, everyone deserves to have and then in turn be able to create these moments.
I ever had in my life.” …. 3rd period new student
Our first week to plate, sit down and eat this semeseter and for our end of week meal last Friday:
Chicken Pot Pie (biscuit topping, not classic pie crust)
Sauteed Flowering Greens in Olive Oil & Garlic
Orange & Kiwi Salad with Honey & Fresh Mint
They liked it.
As to those greens, they tasted close to a rabe-like green, although the Asian farmer I bought them from called them sweet mustard. If anyone knows what I can officially call them, please tell me!
(thank you Rainbow Grocery, it is called Gai Lan…)
Then Monday morning rolls around and all of a sudden, everyone is in class. I usually have pretty good attendance, but rarely does everyone make class. Either there was really nothing else to do out there or word got out that we ate some good food. Now, “What are we eating today?” has become the daily greeting, and this week I had to stall them – no cooking really until Thursday due to school testing, but it was a good chance to discuss and visit the farmer’s markets with those who had completed their testing.
I used to think the produce this time of year would be like the weather, grey, but the colors we saw were pretty astounding. I had seen castel franco before, but this curly purple treviso…pretty exotic. The oranges practically jumped out at us from across the street. And the rainbow chard and the watermelon radish slices caught our eyes too. One of my favorite things about cooking is that the discovery, it never ends.
It was the second to last week of the semester and I wanted to cover a lot of territory. What can we cook that would be a good basis for future cooking at home, not too complicated and not too expensive? Brochettes (“skewers”) and soup had the most variety.
For the brochettes, a few different marinades, a lemon-like vinaigrette for the chicken and a teriyaki style for the tofu — and we remembered to soak the skewers in water ahead of time. It also gave us a chance to go over raw meat handling and cross contamination again (those squeezed lemon halves come in handy for helping to kill germs on that cutting board too). We added some red quinoa (prounounced “keen wah”) to the rice, adding protein and a little more tooth to rice, which has a tendency to mush out for us in large quantities. Red quinoa doesn’t break down quite as easily as the blonde variety, so it was a definite help.
The soup? The grandmother of soups, leek and potato. Easy and it can become so many things. Add more vegetables or grains ,herbs & pasta for a vegetable soup or stew. Puree as is for a smooth soup, or puree, add cream, garnish with chopped chives and you have vichyssoise (got some shocked expressions envisioning a cold potato soup tasting good). They really liked this simplest of versions, hot and unpureed, and liked that this was so easy to make.
We also kept it simple this week because I wanted to move through a lot of interview practice, in preparation for our mock interviews with our volunteers. This idea didn’t meet with a fanfare of excitement. It took some time for my students to go from not wanting to participate at all to realizing that someday very soon, there will be a need to be interviewed, whether for a job or for getting into college. Some were afraid that they would sound like they were boasting, but after a bit of practice they realized that what they were really doing was talking effectively about themselves, more like standing up straight with a smile than puffing like a rooster. A helpful tool: a list of job-friendly attributes a student can review and circle those that best apply to him or her. We pulled these out when we got stuck in our practice sessions and they all found ways to pick attributes and apply them to something that they have done.
The students hear me talk a lot about responding positively to a situation, it seems that the default in our society is to point out what someone is doing wrong, not what they are doing right, and often not focusing on figuring out and fixing the actual problem. But in a job situation your ability to frame what you say in a factual or positive way is much more valued than putting others down. It makes you stand out well when you swim against the stream in this way. And again, not like a puffing rooster, but with effective positive awareness. Interviewing helped us take that positive response we’ve been working on in class and turn it into positively talking about oneself. At the end of our mock interview sessions with our adult volunteers everyone stood a little straighter with a smile.
It is easy when looking for a job to center around what one can do. But what ends up mattering more to an employer is how you will work, much more than what you can do. Today we started class talking about pride of work, being proud of how you work as a way to gaining the kind of experience and work ethic that is useful in any job. When it comes to the less glamorous tasks such as cleaning, once one student starts jumping in, the rest soon realize it is not a big deal and cleaning as a group goes pretty quickly. Luckily, with cooking in class we have the bonus that they can see and taste the results of their labor — a quicker connection to that kind of pride in how we work, a tangible chance to get to a sense of accomplishment. Pride of work comes before much of what we think needs to happen to get a job and the only way to get it is to do something, anything and to do it the best you can.