Commodore Cooking Club teaches basic culinary skills
The Commodore Cooking Club shows eager youngsters their way around the kitchen thanks to the patience of Karen Miller at Tates Creek Elementary. The activities involve no actual cooking or baking, but sometimes the microwave comes into play as they make a variety of healthy, delicious snacks. “We try to do simple things they can prepare for themselves or for their families at home,” Miller said.
The lessons also cover safety rules like hand washing and hair pin-up as well as classroom cleanup – wiping down tables, washing dishes, and mopping the floor. “Before we start, I teach about knife safety because we do use sharp knives. We also learn to measure liquids and solids, teaspoons and tablespoons,” said Miller, a special education teacher who enjoys cooking. “They have to learn to share and take turns. They have to decide who does what – measure the milk, pour it in, stir.”
This popular after-school club started last fall, and Miller hosts two sessions per year with 12 students in each group. It is open to third and fourth graders, who must submit a short paragraph about why they want to join. Nine-year-old Solomon Williams brought a bit of experience to the table. “I cook at home because it makes me feel accomplished when I’m done making food,” he said. He is also partial to the utensils, adding, “I really like cutting the peppers and working with the knives.”
The students meet for one hour on Wednesdays as an extracurricular activity. “I really like cooking pancakes, hotdogs, and pizza,” said 8-year-old Jenna Powell, who thought the guacamole was a challenge but the Oreo dessert a dream. For Halloween week, their treat was Monster Mash Popcorn – a mixture of popcorn, pretzels, mini marshmallows, M&Ms, and candy corn all drizzled with candy melts. “Everything we make, the kids have to try it one time,” Miller said – which no doubt was not an issue that afternoon.
A few days earlier, the club took a sampling to school board members at the district’s main office, where students served Ritz Cracker Pizzas, Rainbow Sandwiches, Oreo Truffle Dessert, and Creek Water before the business meeting. “We all worked together, and we accomplished making the food and delivering the food,” said Solomon, who emphasized that teamwork is necessary to turn out a good product. “If you’re not working as a team, somebody might feel bad if they’re left out, stuff could fall on the floor, or people could get cut by the knives,” he said. “If you’re a team, you’ll take turns and be careful, and be organized and not messy.”
For the demonstration in Norsworthy Auditorium, the children sported new white aprons on which Principal Carrie Paul had sewn the TC logo. That was the latest example of the teamwork running this club. Nancy Sprague, the school’s Family Resource Center coordinator, provides all the food, and music teacher Candace James lends a hand on Wednesdays. (Miller then helps her with choir on Thursdays.)
For this fall’s culminating event Nov. 6 in the TCE library, each small group of four students plans to prepare their favorite snack for their families. Miller will also create a recipe booklet as a keepsake. Parents have already mentioned the cooking club’s impact on their household. One dad noticed his daughter leaning toward healthier snacks at the grocery, and a mom was pleased that her child now tastes new foods at dinner.
“I hope they learn healthier eating and how to clean up by themselves, how to take care of younger siblings and prepare a small snack if they’re hungry,” Miller said of the club members. “Hopefully they’ll take an interest in cooking and when they’re older, go a step further.”