Monthly Archives: September 2015

The Art of Cooking

Jaime Oliver’s got nothing on me.

I admit that he’s good, and there’s nothing quite like snuggling up with my wife after a long week and indulging in one of his instructional Youtube videos from his younger years, but I think I’m the better chef because really, when’s the last time he had to share his kitchen with twenty or thirty children?

I am the soup chef this school year. Every Tuesday I chop, mix, and blend a soup for the Kindergarten. The ingredients vary slightly from week to week, but usually  the soup consists of butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, sweet potato, cauliflower, leeks, and lentils. As the children are arriving in the morning, I begin with a vegetable stock, and then with the help of the children, we chop up the veggies. In sensible fashion, we toss in the dense butternut first, followed by the potatoes, carrots, leeks, and just before blending it, finish up with the lentils. My secret touch involves going outside to the garden and cut a few leaves of sage as well as some thyme. I feel this brings a delicate touch of sophistication to the meal, a touch that the children need for their culinary development. Together with freshly baked bread and a finishing course of freshly chopped fruit, we all leave the table happy and satisfied.

Last Tuesday I started prepping the afternoon snack. It consisted of halved Beechtree bread (one of these posts I intend to share the recipe) with an olive-based spread and pear and apple jam. One child became intrigued and wanted to help, so I asked that she wash her hands and select an apron to put on. Within minutes five children were lined up shoulder to shoulder smearing the olive spread, and then the jam on each of the pieces of bread. There was concentration, smiles, and jam everywhere, but I think I can say with conviction that the overarching feeling was unanimous in that it was the best snack ever!

Autumn Beginnings: The filling of the sandpit

The air was crisp this past week marking the transition from summer ease to fall business with a clarity that only comes from the onset of cold weather.

I anticipated a rough transition back to school and yet was nicely surprised to find that I woke before my alarm, refreshed and excited for our return to Beechtree. My son was stoked as well; nicely efficient in getting himself packed and ready for the trip to school. This year we are within hiking distance so instead of an arduous commute by car we took the wooded ridgeline trail and said hello to all the dog walkers and foot commuters.

The week was magical.

The moment that was most remarkable for me was the filling of the sandpit. Twenty exceedingly heavy bags of cement… well they definitely felt like bags of cement, but they were actually bags of sand, arrived in the early afternoon on Tuesday. They were so heavy that just one bag was too much for the children’s wheelbarrow to handle and squashed the thin metal tub right down onto the wheel making it topple over lopsided. In the end, I hauled the bags by hand and set them strategically around the rim of the sand pit while being directed by the children as to the bag’s best placement. When the bags were all placed, I cut a big hole into each of them, and from there the children took the initiative, scooping out sand with hand, trowel, or cup to fill the sandpit (and I suspect, their Wellies too).

They were all immersed in the task. The older children occasionally helped the younger children, but largely each child dug into her own bag, with her own unique style. One child took little spoon-sized scoops and scattered them around like sugar while another pushed and pulled and squeezed the sand out. One child was inspired to start “cooking” with the pots and pans while another child kind of relaxed into his sand bag as if it were a lounge chair.

Time and time again, I find myself so amazed to see such individually focused attention expressed amid a group’s overall rhythmic harmony.  Especially at such a tempestuous time of year, all of these children working harmoniously within such a relatively small space suggested to me the real potential for world peace.