I am a shameless extrovert. While others, after a long week of interacting with people, can’t wait to just chill by themselves, I am just the opposite. Spending time with people gives me energy. So this year, when I could afford a regular assistant, the amazing Sherri Brown, I was thrilled! Getting to do what I love, feeding people in a creative and healthful way, and having someone to share in the experience has been a wonderful thing. But at times, I still have this sense that I may be missing my calling. Because the truth is, the majority of my working life is interacting with food rather than people. Being a former elementary school teacher has given me some perspective on this. Food is low maintenance. It is predictable and completely dependent on my actions. Ingredients behave and do not talk back when I manipulate them into whatever I desire. But as a social being, there is something lacking in the fulfillment of that. It can be a lonely thing to see your impact being primarily focused on inanimate objects.
All this to say, I am truly inspired and fulfilled when I combine my love for food with my love for people. Cooking classes are my happy place. Now, I offer both dinner party-style classes in my home studio kitchen along with workshop-based classes out of the Regional Food Distribution kitchens. And recently, I was invited back to the HYS Kids After School Program as the “guest Chef” to teach a group of junior high students the art of Italian cooking.
You may recall in a previous post awhile back I wrote about my first visit to Kingsway Park Public School, where I taught the students how to make “Green Eggs and Ham” in the form of Spinach and ham omelettes. This time, the group was working on preparing for a year-end event, where parents and funders will all be invited to share in their experience and skills learned by having a dinner made entirely by the students themselves. My role was to teach the main course: lasagna roll-ups. The students got to pick the recipe and gather the ingredients in advance. I did a demonstration of knife skills and general Italian cooking knowledge and then put the students to work in groups. It was so good to see them take the initiative and get into the cooking experience! There were some humorous moments as well, like when I stopped by the marinara sauce station just in time to correct one student on his measurement of the black pepper. “It says, ¼ tsp, not ¼ cup!” In the end no-one was hurt, even though knives and hot pans were used, and they were so pleased with the final product! I’ve learned that if a teen say “This is pretty cool!” or “This is, like, my favourite dinner ever!” they probably mean it!
The main instructor of HYS Kids After School Program, Joanne Tomlinson, has been working hard throughout the year to give the kids skills and knowledge that they otherwise would not have opportunity to learn. She noted that at the beginning of the year, one child was afraid of the toaster, and another could hardly spread jam on bread. Now they are taking ownership of the projects and are pumped to show their parents what they’ve learned. And I am pumped to be a part of it.
All this to say, this catering thing will be sustainable. I will not become that crazy person who chats to herself and to her ingredients as she prepares food by herself day upon day. Working with others and working in the context of cooking classes has rounded out this career choice personality-wise and made me feel like I do have something good to offer the community around me.