I decided to be a volunteer in my childrens' school, in their brand spanking impressive new kitchen.
The school has been running a program for some time in accordance with the Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden concept, which I love, and I'd also been feeling a little disconnected from my children's school.
So the husband takes the kids of a Friday afternoon and off I go!
Twenty children in a class, five groups each stationed at a work bench preparing their given meal.
Today's was minestroni with Parmasan, potato and rosemary foccacia, fried green tomatoes with yoghurt and imagination salad. Impressive menu, lots of beautiful veggies harvested straight form the gardening class before kitchen class. It's a beautiful thing really. All these little nine and ten year olds eager to chop, peel, stir knead, whatever.
Today was my first experience with helping the children to chop correctly, it was nerve wreaking! I had one boy very quiet, bigger than his peers with a soft slightly
withdrawn demeanour. I made extra sure to have him involved. I helped him to chop, I had to tell him several time to watch his thumb. When he felt he'd made a mistake he'd sigh and his shoulders would slump, but I'd reassure him "you're doing really well".
I could see he lacked confidence and sense of self, his peers were far more talkative, keen and chatty amongst themselves. I felt for this boy, he wasn't uttering a word.
I could also see that he was getting better and more confident as he was given more to do, still not saying anything.
When the time came to try the soup for flavour, I lifted the lid and as he was beside me a good waft of the soup came his way and unprompted he said "that smells really good"
Yes! I thought he spoke, and yes this is what this class is all about, experiencing food, growing it cooking with it and sharing it. I think I even made a difference to this boy today.
In this class too is my own son, a little pixie boy, smaller than his peers cheery and eager in the kitchen too short for the bench top but in there having a go. Every Friday he's happy to see me, his mum in the kitchen helping out.
He's happy that is till he is faced with his plate. My little pixie cannot even fathom why you would eat salad, and have green stuff in your soup, or rosemary on your foccacia. At home we eat a wide variety of food, but he will not eat a raw veggie, he will eat spinach in pie or in lasagna or canelloni. We don't make a big deal, he eats well enough and a variety we are satisfied with, I do wish he'd eat salad though as my three girls do.
I don't know where we went wrong or when even, he was not a fussy toddler just one that loved dairy and meat more than the raw vegies.
Well you should have seen his face today, he shut down in fact, he shut his eyes and mouth pushed his chair back and was in some sad meditative state. I was there with at least seven other Mums and two teachers. I was just quietly a little embarrassed in fact I was wondering to myself, how did he get this way, where did I go wrong?
His teacher took him out for a little talk and he returned looking somewhat better, I had tried but got nothing, Other than a grumpy head down "I am not doing kitchen again." He sat down and tried the minestrone, even liked it , he picked the salty potato from the delicious foccacia but ate nothing else.
I felt sad even sorry, he'd really missed out, he lacked the ability to take in this whole experience, to even eat the fried green tomatoes he helped make, I didn't understand it. We love food in my house we grow food we cook everything from scratch even.
I noted that no other child cracked a sad that these children were enjoying the experience.
I'll take my little victory with my soup student and I'll file my sons big sad up there with the mega tantrum my eldest daughter threw on the escalators in a shopping mall when she was two and our then only child and we were dumbfounded, or at least I was. Dumbfounded and embarrassed.
Did we win a little there with my little pixie boy? I am not sure or did he just manage to embarrass his Mum. I took what victory I had with my quiet student and smiled, I'll come back next week and the week after It cannot get worse than today, I hope.