Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Of Schools and Cilantro

From the bean of Green Bean.

The seven year old smiling up at me smelled like onions. Spring onions from the local farmers' market to be precise. Popping another slice in her mouth, she sawed the child-proof "knife" back and forth across the cutting board and lopped off dog-eared chunk of onion, adding it to the pile.

"He's not doing it right?" reported the brown-haired girl to her right. I glanced at the energetic kindergartner, my son, pounding away at the chopper, slicing and dicing with glee. We opened the container and dumped out the red cabbage. Four of the five students sampled and two even asked for seconds of the raw cabbage.

The idea was not mine but a local-loving friend of mine whose daughter is also in the class. She spent spring break re-vamping the cooking center for our children's K/1 classroom to include more "real food." Seasonal produce. Whole foods. Less sugar, more variety. No Pillsbury pre-made biscuit.

Today, spring rolls with carrots, cilantro, cabbage, bean sprouts, spring onions, rice noodles, and roll wrappers were on the menu. The thirty minute center flew by as children cut, chopped, mixed, stirred and assembled their own, made to order, almost all organic and local spring roll. A total of ten kids made their way through my station. Nearly every one of them tasted something different. Something fresh, healthy, and whole. Sure, most kids left out the onions. The cilantro - after smelled and parsed - was ultimately abandoned in the bowl. And only a few ventured to add sprouts to their spring rolls. But they all learned something new about what we eat.

They inspected the dirt caked on a fresh onion.

They discovered that shredded carrots taste as good as Easter candy. Or very nearly.

They ate something with no preservatives. Minimal packaging. Little fat. Ingredients that our grandparents would readily identify. They ate real food.

And for that, I was grateful. Even as I spent the next thirty minutes cleaning up shredded carrots and chopped cabbage while the kids were back to vowels and addition.

*To read more about the movement to reintroduce our kids to fresh, local and healthy food, check out the Healthy Schools Campaign's Fresh Voices for Fresh Choices series.


Heather @ SGF said...

I don't think we (in general) give enough credit to our kids for being interested in the food they eat. So many little ones at our farmers' market help pick out the veggies they want to eat, love to get samples from the vendors, and older kid (maybe 12) even asked for a recipe of something he liked so he could make it himself. I love watching the kids do the shopping.

Jennifer said...

What a neat classroom center! I'd leave the cilantro, too (it tastes like soap). :)

So important to taste different things, to try different things!

Farmer's Daughter said...

That's so cool! The "Edible Schoolyard" has wonderful lesson plans on their site. You should check it out for future adventures!!!

Chile said...

Great way to involve the kids in eating better food and in season to boot!

Now I want spring rolls, though. Could ya send some kids over with some fresh veggies? :)

Green Bean said...

Heather: I agree with you. I find that involving our kids in what they eat leads everyone to better choices. My kids will try things at the farmers' market or in our garden that they would never eat if they hadn't been involved, somehow, in procuring it.

Jennifer: You say soap, I say salsa. ;-) I agree. It is really important to branch out and try.

Abbie: Doh! I so forgot about Edible Schoolyard. I always think "school gardens" with that one but I'll need to check it out because my friend and
I are thinking about putting together a seminar on "real food" or something like that for next year. A seminar is a parent taught class, once a week for four weeks.

Chile: I do need to warn you that the photo is a stock photo. I forgot my camera but the kids' spring rolls looked NOTHING like the photo. Okay, a few of the 1st grade girls nearly pulled it off but the rest, well . . . I did still feel hungry while I was helping, though. :)

Jess said...

Okay what am I doing wrong? I invite my kiddo to choose veggies at the market or participate in meal prep and he's all gleeful about it, then when it's time to actually EAT, he wants nothing to do with it!

I keep on trying though!
I am nothing if not Sicilian and stubborn. :)

Yay for the new food at school! I love it.

EcoBurban said...

A cooking center for the K/1 classrooms? Sheesh, I would just be happy with some fresh veggies and fruit in the lunchroom. Seriously, GB, I think you could start a business reforming school classrooms and food programs. That or I just need to move west. Have I mentioned that before? :) My boy's middle school and elementary schools look like brand warehouses instead of cafeterias. I am shuddering as I think about what the highschool lunchroom must look like...

flowers said...

Oooooooo, we love spring rolls! So fun to make and eat.

My 4 year old loves cooking and he definitely eats more if he was involved.

Donna said...

I'm with Jess -- my four year old gets all excited about the veggies at the market, even to the point of asking me to buy certain veggies. He's happy to help prepare them, and then when I try to get him to actually eat them, he tells me that he'll like them when he's older.

I think it's great what you're doing, though, GB. What a wonderful program to have in school!

Green Bean said...

Jess: Well, I guess you just keep trying. I will say that one of my 10 kids refused to try anything. Still, maybe next time. :)

EB: Move west, my dear, move west! Just kidding. We're lucky to be at a school where people are into this thing.

flowers: Spring rolls were a first for my son. Definitely not a last though.

Donna: He may be right. My six year old suddenly started trying everything about a year ago. My four year old? Still pretty picky.

Electronic Goose said...

What a great program! I agree, we need to move out west too! :)

JessTrev said...

Ohmigosh, I'm with Chile - send me some spring rolls! I looooove those. And I am also with EcoburbanMom - my kid's school is full of prepackaged individually portioned preheated servings of Lawd Almighty That is Not Recognizeably Food. Love that you have a K/1 cooking center! And even more that you're getting in there and enjoying time with your son.


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