Last Modified: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 1:15 PM
Walking into Sowela Technical Community College’s kitchen, the smell of all spice, nutmeg, cinnamon, sugar and other dry spices flirted with my nose.
Over at the griddle stood cooking instructor Ellen Fontenot, stirring a heaping pile of jerk seasoned chicken — which was the point of origin for the aroma I noticed.
As she worked, eight youngsters, ranging in ages 11 to 13 repeatedly entered and exited the kitchen. They were transporting plates and utensils to the dining room next door.
The brood set tables in preparation for a lunch their parents would eat. In a few hours, the youth would end their week-long foray into the culinary world. All had participated in the school’s annual kids cooking camp.
Reminiscent of Bill Cosby’s television show “Kids Say The Darndest Things” I decided to ask the campers a few questions.
The difference between Cosby’s show and my exercise in culinary journalism was the ages of the youth. Cosby interviewed young kids, while I worked with people deep into puberty.
What did you learn?
Audra Fontenot, 11, “I learned how to cut potato chips.”
Rachel Bertrand, 11, “I learned not much about cooking, but I did learn about trying new things.”
Anna Queenan, 12, “I learned how to cut mangos. It took five minutes to cut each mango because they squished all over my hands.”
What did you find different about cooking in a big kitchen as opposed to at home?
Kiran Owens, 11, “There’s a giant sprayer and power washer that takes three minutes to clean dishes. That is not like washing dishes at home.”
Typical with youth, the campers all commented that they would relive the week. Even if it meant washing their hands constantly or having to be reminded by Fontenot that the key parts of every meal is a fruit, vegetable, protein, grain and dairy selection.
“You know, I learned to cook some food and it was awesome,” said the lone guy in the group, 11-year-old Jack McHale.
Julia Mills echoed McHale’s sentiment, “I like cooking a lot.”
Bela Syed, 12, expressed happiness with skills she learned in dealing with two specific parts of the plate food guide.
“I learned how to cut different fruits and veggies,” she said.
During their five-day camp stay, the children were introduced to dishes from America, France, Italy, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Fontenot explained that a cookbook with simple kitchen concepts and principles was provided to each child.
Only a few of them said they would consider cooking as a profession.
Considering that we live in the digital age, everyone of the children acknowledged they shared one thing in common.
When you do feel like learning how to cook; who do you observe?
“Food Network!” they said.
Camp may be fun, but as usual, modern-day babysitters — televisions and computers — is the sure-fire way to teach.
No question about it.
Eric Cormier writes about food every Wednesday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 494-4090.