Patty Unleashed

Patty Unleashed: 9.7.16

How did you learn to cook? You would think with my big family, the girls would be in the kitchen and the boys would be, I don’t know, chopping wood or something. But that wasn’t the case. My mom was the cook in the family, thankfully. She fed a family of eight and short of letting us occasionally help, we stayed out of her way. That’s not to say we didn’t make the occasional cake or scrambled eggs, but the meal prep was handled by my mom. Clean up was handled by all the kids, boys and girls.

Most kids pick up some sort of cooking skills in middle or high school with a Home Ec class, but my high school didn’t offer it. So I didn’t learn the fundamentals of the kitchen until I was actually responsible for making meals for my dad.

You see, my mom was way ahead of her time. She and her friends used to take girls trips together, leaving their husbands and kids to fend for themselves. This meant my sister and I were supposed to prepare dinner for my dad. My sister was much more of a natural in the kitchen. I needed a theme for each meal. One night, it was white night, which meant everything on the plate had to be white. A lovely meal of white rice, cauliflower, and cod was served. Coney Island night was hot dogs with canned chili on top and frozen French fries as the side because, well, no one eats vegetables on Coney Island. My dad was always a great sport about these meals and seemed to believe me when I said I wasn’t trying to kill him.

So, I was interested to learn of a special camp offering at Forsyth School this past summer called Home Ec. How retro—but what a great idea! Teaching kids how to actually make food and feed themselves—and it didn’t involve a drive-thru or super sizing. So I managed to get myself invited to the final day of camp, which was a sit-down meal for the other campers.

Meredith Harris, a third-grade teacher at Forsyth, came up with the idea. She thought it would be a great way to teach kids some basic skills like food prep, sewing and just how to be more self-sufficient.

At the meal, my seat mates were two young boys I tried to engage in conversation. I must applaud their parents for doing a great job of teaching them about ‘stranger danger’ because neither one was willing to talk to me. They clearly were not going to chat with the strange lady who assumed they were 6 when they were 3. What they lacked in small talk, however, they made up in gusto for the food served. And, the meal came on beautifully sewn placemats and cloth napkins, forcing all of us to use our best manners.

I asked Meredith what the biggest surprise from camp was, and she said that other camp counselors, young adults around 18 or 19, didn’t know how to cut up vegetables. Perhaps we need to start the tradition of having our kids make us a meal once a month, maybe even one centered on a theme. Like my father did, we can all suffer a little for our kids. After all, cooking skills will come in handy.

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