I’m the Kitchen Specialist at Majura Primary School. I am pretty new at this job – before kids I worked in the university system as a Biology Lecturer, but I have always loved kids, teaching and food so this job seemed perfect and I am loving it.
I have seen the program grow from it’s beginnings to it’s amazing breadth and depth we see today. I feel really privileged to be a part of that. And the most important part of the program are the kids. They never cease to astonish me every day I am in the kitchen with them and hopefully through this blog I will be able to give you a window into the Majura Kitchen so you can see how special they are.
I thought I would begin this blog by letting you see what a kitchen class is like. The kids come into the dining room and put on their aprons, helping each other, if needed, to tie them up, they take a seat and I introduce the day. The menu is Farfalle with Tomato Sauce, Spring Onion Fritters and Green Salad with Lemon and Honey Dressing. I ask if anyone knows what Farfalle means and after good guesses someone says “bowties”, then we move down into the kitchen.
The kids love to use the pasta machine and they quickly figure out that it requires good team work. Once they have rolled out the pasta into long (sometimes very long), thin strips they cut them into rectangles with a pasta wheel and then the volunteer grand-mum demonstrates the tricky manoeuvre involving their thumb, index and middle fingers to create bowties. Well I thought it was a tricky manoeuvre!
A volunteer from our local community supervises three kids halving the tomatoes with the serrated knives and another grating the garlic. It all then goes into the saucepan and everyone gets a go at stirring. Then they pass the sauce through the mouli to remove the seeds and skin, and again everyone gets a go to turn the mouli. Everyone tastes the sauce and agrees it needs a bit more pepper.
Meanwhile the salad group has been in the garden harvesting fresh salad leaves which they choose by looking, feeling and tasting. In today’s salad I counted 9 varieties of salad leaves. Spinning the leaves to dry them after washing them is one of the most sort-after activities in the kitchen – they just go crazy for it. They then prepare the dressing, taste test, and decide it needs more lemon. Two of the students volunteer to set the tables whilst the other two prepare the water jugs with slices of lime, leaves of lemon verbena and ice cubes.
Three members of the Fritter group are confronted with how to chop the spring onions without onion tears. The volunteer mum keeps a watchful, guiding eye but lets the kids discover the way to solve their problem. They choose three different ways – a knife, scissors and the mezzaluna, the knife resulting in more tears than the other methods. Another student goes out into the garden to pick some basil and parsley. Then they separate the yolks from the whites and they take turns to whisk the whites. Cooking is also a cooperative effort, each taking turns at the various jobs.
Whilst we wait for one of the groups to finish the teacher asks the class to come up with cooking verbs they used in the kitchen today – cut, turn, roll, whisk, stir. With all the dishes on the tables, I ask the kids to take a moment to admire the food before them and I congratulate on an amazing effort. They pass the food round, making sure everyone has a bit of everything. One girl at my table insists she doesn’t eat tomatoes, so I suggest she tries just one farfalle, so she does. I notice a bit later that her plate is full of farfalle – I say nothing, but I am happy.
Everyone helps to cleans up, the bell goes, they hang up their aprons and run off to lunch. I look round the kitchen, it is clean and tidy.
They were awesome!