This project ran from September 2006 until July 2012. During this time we taught many young people, aged 8 to19, who had little or no experience of cooking, taking them through an interactive cooking program, based on the strong relationship between emotional well-being, food, physical health and the ability to enjoy and participate in learning a vital skill for life. Once our Community Food Learning Centre is built, we will continue these courses as before.
We run short intensive cookery courses consisting of six or ten 3 hour sessions during which the students learned how to cook sensible, healthy, meals and eat together.
It has been a rewarding experience to see students become inspired and immersed in the task of preparing and cooking, sharing and eating nutritious meals together. Fads and fears of new and unfamiliar food disappear as they eat and share the food they have cooked. Their willingness to share in the clearing up and generally help each other develops with each session, along with their self esteem and confidence. A positive sense of wellbeing often radiates in the kitchen.
Session lengths of three hours gives ample time for the students to prepare a full three course meal as well as a valuable opportunity to chat around the lunch table (an experience many of our students rarely have).
In our kitchen we encourage a spirit of adventure in cooking – getting young people to try the huge variety of wholesome, natural ingredients more available nowadays. We call upon the wealth of culinary knowledge that exists historically, globally and in contemporary cuisine and siphon off the best and learn to create superb dishes that taste good and are healthy for us as well as the world we live in.
Healthy and ethically produced food is our top priority but this does not mean that we cut out sugar, salt or foods containing saturated fats (butter, cream and full fat cheese) but we use these foods in moderation. We do however cut out highly processed foods, which often contain far too much saturated fat, sugar and salt as well as a cocktail of chemical additives. This is why we stress the importance of reading food labels so that informed choices can be made in the future by these young people.
Our global recipes take into account the high percentage of multi cultural students who show an obvious delight in recognising particular foods used in their own ethnic cooking. Students happily learn from each other as they turn out a delicious roast dinner or a shepherds pie with lamb and aduki beans and just as enthusiastically prepare an Indian curry with basmati brown rice and lentil dahl. What is enjoyed greatly is making bread, pizza bases and pastry, as well as delicious healthy cakes, muffins and biscuits using a variety of whole grain flours, nuts, seeds and dried and fresh fruit.
For most of our young people, aged 8 to 19, entering the kitchen is the first time they will have prepared any dish from scratch. Their obvious enjoyment constantly rewards us and after nearly 3 hours hard graft, just one look in the oven at savory dishes turning golden or a cake rising makes their tiredness miraculously vanish. Setting the table, sharing their food with others and eating together brings the young people warmly together in a relaxed and enriching way.
OF THE GOOD FOOD MATTERS KITCHEN