Cooking and the Classroom

This blog post originally appeared on the Bear Pond Books’ Educators Resources Page – if you’re in the Montpelier area next Saturday, January 23rd, stop by Bear Pond Books for the workshop, it’s part of the Author-Educator series (but you don’t have to be an educator to enjoy it).

January 23rd, at 11:00 am in the Children’s Room, Helen Labun kicks off the 2016 Author-Educator workshops with Cooking Experiments – a look at recent cookbooks for kids, the range of topics classes can explore with those cookbooks, and some interesting food for us all to taste.

Yes, it is the same Helen Labun writing this blog, but we’re pretending it’s an outside presenter, and talking in the third person.

Helen’s book on how flavor works was published this fall by 99: The Press – Discovering Flavor. It contains many interesting food facts and experiments. Unfortunately, the experiments feature wine, whiskey and black coffee, so aren’t a great match for the elementary school classroom, which is why we’re featuring other cookbooks, not her own.

We’ve previously tackled the topic of food and agriculture in the classroom in a 2013 workshop with Gail Gibbons and Abbey Nelson, the notes from that workshop are linked here. Helen also wrote a related post on the Nerdy Book Club Blog – Top 10 Books for Making Lunch.

This time the focus is on cooking, which offers plenty of opportunities for learning about a range of topics. There’s science, math (measuring), culture, history. . . even, as we’ll see, art. Plus, food and cooking engages all of our senses (literally all of our senses – another thing that we’ll talk about on the 23rd) making it a great vehicle for remembering information learned.

Because this is an online preview, we can’t hand out actual food samples, so instead here’s a sampling of some interesting articles about food, cooking, and creative learning we can do in the kitchen. The articles are primarily for an adult audience, but you’ll quickly get a sense of the different insights into the world beyond the kitchen that food can provide to cooks of any age:

  • Local author Rebecca Rupp (How Carrots Won the Trojan War; After Eli) has a regular column on the National Geographic blog The Plate exploring little known facts in food, primarily tied to world history. You can read her columns here. You can read notes from her 2013 Author-Educator talk at Bear Pond “Nonfiction with Personality” here.
  • Other interesting articles on food and social history: The Social History of Jell-O Salad (from Serious Eats);  How the U.S. Military Helped Invent Cheetos (from Wired); The United States of Chinese Food (from Gastropod).We’re also writing our own chapter in social history right now with the rise of a “foodie kid” generation, as explored in this article on MasterChef Junior “Behind the Scenes at the Cutest Cooking Show on Television“. Vermont has its own version – Junior Iron Chef , a yearly culinary competition.
  • Kenji Lopez-Alt, author of the new cookbook Food Lab, is known for applying the scientific method and controlled experiments to developing recipes for the home kitchen. He began studying science at MIT before deciding that his future was in cooking. Here’s one example of his approach to kitchen experiments: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. Kenji talks about his approach to food and science in “Food + Science = Victory!” from Freakonomics and in this interview with Ed Levine. On the 23rd we’ll look at some scientific method-based cookbooks designed specifically for children.
  • One subset of science that’s obviously a part of food is nutrition. Here are some kids cookbooks focused on that topic (note that we aren’t reviewing these for the 23rd so they are simply FYI links): The Help Yourself Cookbook for Kids, Good Enough to Eat, Kid Chef 
  • There’s also a lot to be said about food as a way to look at art. The blog Edible Geography often features avant garde projects where art and food meet, like “Ghost Food“. A particularly interesting discussion of capturing the spirit of a food through art is in this Edible Geography article “Of Sisters and Clones.” On the 23rd we’ll look at the work of photographer and cookbook author Erin Gleeson. You can see her work on her website Forest Feast, and her cookbook of the same name. She’s coming out with a cookbook for kids this spring, and we’ll have an advance copy on hand to look at.
  • You can find some interesting links to articles on how flavor works at Helen’s website in the “Extras” section, which provides additional information on topics found in her book. Including videos of people eating rotted shark. Who doesn’t want to see those?

To learn more about cooking and learning in the classroom, be sure to join us on Saturday, January 23rd, at 11:00 am for “Cooking Experiments”. This event is free and open to the public. Certificates of attendance are available for educators who can use this workshop towards continuing education credit. Our full schedule of Winter / Spring 2016 Author-Educator events is found at this link.

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