Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lessons from a Smoothie

080Yesterday I started my job all over again. After a semester of maternity leave, I’m back in the high school classroom where chaos and order try to coexist, and when it doesn’t, guess who wins.

Not me. Ha.

There are lots of hard things about leaving my babies and going back to work. Mostly I’m trying to focus on my goal of doing without wasting time complaining about it (except a little. I complain a little).

When the kids poured into the room and all sat on the back row next to their friends, I felt a little like the babysitter. Y’know, how you tell the babysitter that you always stay up past 10pm and eat ice cream for dessert because Mom and Dad always let me. Except substitute “This has always been my assigned seat and we always chew gum.” 

Yeah, Right.

I made my negotiations and played tough but fair teacher to classes of smirking students. I gave my speeches about getting A’s and not making excuses and that fun is not just a word that describes parties.

And then I had my culinary class. And to me, fun is a word that describes cooking.

Culinary 1 is not actually just a cooking class, but is about the food industry, nutrition, and a whole slew of things that have very little to do with cooking. Certain other factors involving practicality, location, time, and money reduce that even further.

Despite this, I’m planning on making it as real as possible, and I’ve already made a couple of promises. To show some good faith on my part (and requiring some show of responsibility on their part), I brought ingredients for smoothie making. I went through my cupboards and fridge and basically brought anything that could possibly be called good in a smoothie. Here were my thoughts:

1. It’s hard to make a bad smoothie. Possible, but harder.

2. Experimentation is easier and faster with a smoothie.

3. It requires almost no skill.

I had each group create a recipe with my list of ingredients, and then they were able to “test” it out in my blender. Mostly, they were just too watery. Somewhat edible.

I learned more from watching them make smoothies:

1. Most of them don’t know how to read or use measuring cups and generally have no concept of volume.

2. Most don’t know that vanilla and baking cocoa don’t contain sugar.

3. They don’t have much experience with taste.

After scanning their "favorite foods” and foods they hate from a questionnaire I gave them, I’m pretty sure my ideas about good food and theirs are a million miles apart.

For example, “Hot Pockets” is not something I would say if someone asked me what I knew how to cook.

As we were coming up with recipes and blending, I was surprised at how quiet everyone was. At my school we have quite a few big jokers. Classes are talkative and generally you have to keep a lid on things. Most teachers keep their mean faces for order’s sake. But in my room, today, they all acted like kids who were being allowed to help in the kitchen for the first time.

I guess that’s what was happening, but I didn’t realize that they were nervous about it.

I’ve got a plan in my head for Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles next week. Almost no cooking, knife skills, and simple recipe are the pros. Yet I’m worried that kids who are used to bottled spaghetti sauce are going to hate it.

Then I’ll lose all credibility as a person who knows about food.

Kids are definitely the worst critics, as you can see from Amaya’s face.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie (adapted from a student recipe)

A group of students actually did create this recipe, but I’ve made adjustments as the original had way too much peanut butter and milk. The cinnamon was an interesting touch, I thought.

  • 2 bananas, frozen
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 vanilla pudding cup
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • dash of cinnamon (optional)

Blend together and serve. You may need more milk, depending on your blender and desired consistency.



Katie Lewis said...

Haha. The part about Hot Pockets really made me laugh. :) I always look forward to reading what you write. And, hey, best of luck starting a new semester. It sounds like it's going to be a good one.

Kristen said...

Hot Pockets, huh? wow. I think there are more good posts coming out of that culinary classroom! Love it.

Damaris @Kitchen Corners said...

I wish you had been my teacher. Actually, you've taught me a lot about food and cooking. I met someone that I think you would love. Her name is Diana. She lived in Oahu for 16 years and now lives in Oregon. She's your age and lives off a $100 food budget for her and her husband. She said she lived off a $2 a day budget when she lived in Hawaii. Amazing. Her food is very healthy. She also teaches at the YMCA, culinary classes to low income families. It's a free class and she gets all the ingredients for free from food banks and local farms. Her blog is called Dianasaur Dishes. Look her up.

Nippon Nin said...

This sounds good but not right kind of food if you are having 30 something degree temperture and freezing rain.
Maybe You want to use glass to show off the smoothie? I want to see what's inside.
May you have obedient students and a wonderful school year!

Mariko said...

Katie, thanks. I should be more positive.
Kristen, I hope so, since I have less time to cook! :)
Da: I've heard of her. I'll look her up now.
Nippon Nin: yep. I forget I live in constant summer. And I should have taken pics of the ingredients, since brown smoothies are not as interesting as the cup I put it in.

Christine Wu said...

Is that her "I-like-it" face or "I-don't-like-it" face? She's a cutie.

Sophia Lee said...

Wait...these are high school kids right? And they have no concept of volume? They think vanilla is sweetened already? Oh dear. Looks like you have much to teach them!

Smiths said...

I had no idea you're teaching food (science? more details). How perfect. Hopefully this will add a little joy to your hours in the working part of being a working mom.

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Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

Props to the students in your class for at least being open to the idea of real food. I spent high school living off of frozen pizza and Coke but would maybe have considered a peanut butter smoothie. Can't wait to see what they cook next. Ketchup noodles, perhaps? :)

PS: Thanks for the MasterChef excitement. I'm always thrilled that my right elbow got so much TV time :)

chow and chatter said...

wow your a teacher how cool I bet your a great one, hugs
and can't wait to see your chicken curry


briarrose said...

Love the taste testing picture. ;) Priceless. Smoothies are always so fun to play around with.

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