St. Marys Journal Argus
On a recent Thursday morning, the Mom of a Grade 2 student at Holy Name Catholic school in St. Marys went to open her family’s refrigerator and discovered a note from her son on the magnetic message board. Well, it wasn’t so much a “note” as a “grocery list.”
“He says he’s going to make the family twice-baked potatoes this weekend!” explained the Mom in an email to Grade 2 teacher Jackie Cousins — a copy of which was provided to the Journal Argus.
This is just one result of what was described to the Journal Argus as a “dream come true” for culinary education consultant Carol Miller, the grandmother of a Holy Name students who operates — along with the help of fellow Perth County farm-country grandmother Laurel McIntosh — the “InTheKitchn” culinary education company.
On four successive Wednesday afternoons in November, Cousins’s students have been gathering after school in the kitchen of the Holy Name of Mary Parish Hall — located across the parking lot from the school — to learn how to prepare and serve a variety of foods. Providing assistance to Miller and McIntosh have been some senior members of the Holy Name Church congregation.
Speaking to the Journal Argus while students chopped, mixed and shredded last Wednesday, Miller credited Holy Name Principal Brent Langan for having the “passion” about healthy living and community involvement, to make what he describes as a pilot project a reality. InTheKitchn has a long history of providing one-off culinary workshops to young people — through schools, summer camp programs, and even through a birthday party program offered either in the child’s home or in Tom and Carol Miller’s Fullarton-area farm kitchen. But she says what makes the new Holy Name program unique is that it’s running for four weeks in the same location with the same students, and it involves volunteers from a segment of society that the kids don’t necessarily interact with on a regular basis.
“I love this part!” Miller said of the assistance from members of the church community.
Langan also came up with the plan to pay for the class’s involvement in the program by using proceeds from selling Ontario-grown root vegetables coordinated through the Ministry of Education’s “Fresh from the Farm” school fundraising program. (See accompanying article.) This is Holy Name’s first time participating in the province-wide initiative, and Langan was eager to use the proceeds for something that ties in with the agricultural awareness spirit of Fresh from the Farm.
Miller and McIntosh also got into the spirit, by coming up with recipes using the potatoes, beets, carrots and onions being sold through the program. Last Wednesday, the menu included beet hummus and beet-and-carrot coleslaw.
To many parents, that might not sound like a menu that their kids would want anything to do with. But the email to Cousins from the surprised Mom, sent out after the first of the four planned Wednesday afternoon sessions, blew apart that myth.
“He is talking non-stop about it — how he can use a ‘parent knife’ and all the foods he cooked!” wrote the Mom, referring to the way her son was excited about being able to take part in preparing the food. “(He) loves his food but is a picky eater. I’m sure this class will help with that.”
Langan watched as kids experienced a similar transformation. “Some of the kids, on the first week, were a little put off by what they were seeing,” the Holy Name principal admitted. “But after they had a taste, they were up there wanting seconds.”
“I would say our first night was crazy,” recalled Miller. “Exciting for us all! The kids ate everything, the noise was crazy, the volunteers were absolutely wonderful . . . The learning is practical and the intergenerational opportunity is invaluable for us all.”
Langan says the school will watch how this pilot project unfolds, and may consider similar culinary programs in the future.