This was the start to one of the lessons with my Intro to Culinary Arts class this past semester at Beddingfield High School (BHS) in Wilson, NC. My main focus in my service has been developing a program that links their Horticulture and Culinary Arts classes. For a school like Beddingfield, that is out in the country and has acres of land, this makes perfect sense. Since my first day of service I have been teaching the art of food preservation to high school students. From making fruit preserves to pickles to pesto, we have been freezing, canning, and drying just about everything edible we can get our hands on at the school. We have sold these items as a fundraiser, entered products into the county fair, and used the foods for cooking projects later on during the school year. But our piece de resistance was set to be our end of year FFA banquet, which we hoped to make entirely from food we had grown, preserved and cooked ourselves. For a lot of these students, food has become more than just something to fuel their mind and bodies. For the horticulture students and culinary students alike, growing and cooking food have become a crafts, as well as opportunities to learn how to connect when produce was ready to what we would do with it. For example, our spinach was ready for harvest out of the greenhouse in April, but the ‘Sauces and Dips’ culinary unit was not until May. So, while we used some fresh spinach in salads, we blanched and froze a lot of the greens for later use in spinach dip. Horticulture students worked in groups to design and plant certain parts of the garden and greenhouse with edible crops. They spent time researching crops they could grow given our climate, time frame, and seed collection. After months of spreading mulch and compost, repairing an old greenhouse, building raised beds, shoveling out rows, planting, watering, and waiting…we finally started getting consistent harvests in spring. That is when I started hosting weekly cooking labs with these classes. Many of the students had never tried the foods they were growing, but were very curious. As one student exclaimed: With all the hard work we put into growing and preserving, we are ready for our big banquet. In total we would need to provide food for at least 150 people. Neither my students nor I had ever catered an event quite that large, but we were up for the challenge. The menu development had been ongoing throughout the year with the goal of keeping the foods simple, healthy and delicious. At first the culinary students did not look at the produce with excitement. Like the horticulture students, many of them had never tried the ingredients before so they were unsure how they felt about it. By creating a safe cooking space, the students were able to learn about, experiment with and try foods without any apprehension. Many students had not had any sort of formal nutrition education before taking Culinary Arts. We were able to discuss the importance of nutrients in food and why that mattered for their long-term health. If students didn’t like the way a certain garden-item was prepared, I would challenge them to think about other ways they might want to sample it. We all came to learn that sometimes we aren’t going to like everything we cook, but that someone else may love it so it’s worth trying to create.
“A radish, it’s kind of like a spicy potato! I had heard of them, but never knew what they looked or tasted liked.”Through trial and error our final banquet menu consisted of: *There was also a whole slow-roasted hog (served as classic eastern NC barbeque) that had been raised at the school.
- A garden fresh salad with lettuce, radishes, carrots, pickled beets and green onions
- Two types of deviled eggs: classic and pickled pepper & bacon
- Spinach Dip
- Chicken Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies