Evelyn and Frankie, HIP’s Nutrition Program Coordinators, recently completed their Cooking Matters class at Literacy Source. In this blog, Frankie reflects on her experience on what they taught, and more importantly, what they learned.
Our first Cooking Matters class is complete!
Going into our Cooking Matters class at Literacy Source, Evelyn and I had no idea to expect. Literacy Source is an organization that partners with adults working to gain skills and education, most of whom are not native English speakers. How much English would the participants be able to speak/ understand? Would we be able to make lesson plans that were appropriate to the level of each person in the class and honor their skills and experiences?
As it turned out, cooking and sharing food together are things that do not require extensive communication through language. In fact, we realized early on that knowledge can be transmitted in other ways: through gestures, facial expressions, through imitation of movement.
Cooking quickly became a collaborative effort, with many participants finding ways to share their expertise and opinions when it came to cooking a dish together. They were eager to take charge and showcase a skill, or learn a skill from someone else in the class.
Our last class, Evelyn and I planned to make peanut butter hummus with the participants, a fun spin on traditional hummus made with chickpeas and tahini. However, after participants poured all the ingredients into the food processor and I pressed start, I realized that I had forgotten an essential component: the chopping blade.
Without missing a beat, the participants began to scoop the ingredients out of the food processor and into bowls, gathering mashing tools from the kitchen such as forks and spoons. Quickly, we arranged ourselves into an assembly line, adding or subtracting liquid from bowls and developing an intricate mashing system for the hummus. Participants tasted the hummus-like mixture occasionally to see how our work was progressing. Communication was expressed through short words or single phrases like use this or try a spoon or you next. Somehow, everyone was involved.
Within 30 seconds, I went from completely panicked about how I was going to remedy the situation, to inspired and impressed by the initiative and resourcefulness of the participants. The significance of this class became clear: as not only a space to learn particular skills, but a place where people can come together to share in a creative and collaborative experience.
Yes, it is also important to eat enough of the right foods and get the right nutrients, but food is so much more than fuel that we fill our bodies with. Food is invention, food is pleasure, food is community. Food is a shared experience.