About Sundays with Sparky

To me, the most fundamental need in the food desert is education.  Once, I was helping at a school event where we were sampling "healthy" pop-tarts for the school breakfast program.  A student walked up to the booth, smiled, and exclaimed "I was raised on those!" It distressed me that she spoke of the cardboard-style-planks with affection usually reserved for a home-cooked meal. Packaged, ready-to-eat foods are more expensive as well as often being bad for you - the only benefit they offer is immediate gratification.  I'm sure even this young person would have passed up the pop-tart for a freshly-cooked breakfast, if only someone taught her to make and appreciate one.

When my son (who I've affectionately nicknamed Sparky) turned seven years old, I decided to start teaching him a few kitchen tricks.  At the time my only objective was to raise a young man who could feed himself inexpensively and well by the time he's on his own - but I found our cooking project had many other benefits.  We've used food to learn about history, geography, chemistry, writing...but most importantly, math.  Coming from a literary background, I tend to focus on the language of food.  I forget how math-heavy the kitchen is - but what he learned came out at conferences, where my son's teacher pointed out that he's the "best measur-er in the classroom."

It was a bit difficult to get him interested at first, but I bribed him by saying he could choose which food he wanted to cook (you will note our recipe index is a bit dessert-heavy.)  Not surprisingly, Mac and Cheese came to the top of the list: yes, it's not exactly health food - but there are a lot of cooking fundamentals involved in this simple meal.  In that one lesson, Sparky learned how to cook dry pasta, how to make a roux, and how to keep a cheese sauce from breaking.  The dish turned out to be so wildly successful that we later entered a culinary competition and made a video of the process:

Sparky's Phenomenami Mac and Cheese from Michele Hays on Vimeo.

Recipe Index for Sundays with Sparky
The Kitchen Classroom Series
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