Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pass it on...

My daughter Pia learned to cook by absorbing a whole lot from me. That's how I learned too, watching my mother, being given small tasks to help out in the kitchen, and absorbing the philosophy and the methodology. Mother did not own recipe books yet she remembered dishes her mother and grandmother had prepared. Every year she replicated those recipes from memory.

Most days Mother would go to town to "fare la spesa", do the shopping. What she found at the vegetable vendor or at the fish-monger who showed up a couple of times a week, mainly on Fridays with just caught seafood, these ingredients became her inspiration for the day's meal.

How do we pass kitchen literacy to the new generation that knows only packaged meat and bagged greens.  We could watch the Food Channel, the Cooking Channel, Public Television, or assorted morning shows where chefs show off some dish or other, and we might learn a thing or two.

My eldest son fascinated by Emeril Lagasse, tried to replicate what Emeril did. The results were sketchy at best. Since he had never spent much time in the kitchen, preferring to listen to his Heavy Metal music instead, he could only guess what saute' meant.

I plan on inviting a class of fifth graders to visit with me for a few weeks and cook with everyday ingredients they are growing in their school garden. What will we cook?
Peas and beans and zucchini will be plentiful. We'll cook pasta and other grains and learn to make a variety of sauces utilizing our fresh veggies. We'll make pizza, focaccia and simple tarts again using fresh ingredients from the garden.

We'll make notes:

1. Saute' means to fry in very little oil or butter/oil mixture until the vegetable is soft.

2. Blending or crushing herbs with oil, garlic, cheese and nuts will produce a fresh-tasting raw sauce that can spread on bread, on pasta, on rice, on potatoes.

3. Cooking pasta "al dente" allows the pasta to absorb more of the sauce flavors.

4. Eggs can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner.

5. Cooking your own food allows you to control portions, flavorings...

I plan on having lots of fun finding out what they would like to learn, and simplifying steps so they can understand and replicate the processes.

Everyone needs to know how to feed himself/herself.
Everyone needs to feel confident in the kitchen.


  1. I also learned how to cook from my mother and her mother ... no cookbooks in their homes either, though as my mother aged she gathered many recipes from church friends .. which we still enjoy today. Those little 5th graders are lucky!

    PS .. Pia is gorgeous!

  2. Very nice post, Rosaria. I too learned to cook with my mother in the kitchen. My brothers went on Boy Scout camp outs with my dad and I learned to prepare pork roast! I do not have a daughter to pass it on to, but all three of my sons are able to cook! And my lovely daughter-in-love who could not boil water has become a gourmet cook just because she is sensitive to food and cooks with her heart. There are those who eat to live and those who live to eat. My entire family falls into the latter category! :-)

  3. Great project - please tell us how it goes.

  4. That's such a great idea! Having learned some basics as a kid, it'll be so much easier for them as adults to start exploring the world of cooking, should they feel like it... or maybe they'll go on right away, inspired by you!

  5. I can already hear the fifth graders unanimously declaring 'cool' and 'rad' and 'super' the words of their choice for the time they will enjoy cooking with their Italian Iron Chef Rosaria. How fun is that?!

  6. My granddaughters love to cook. At 5 and 7 their skills are still developing. The five year old especially likes breaking the eggs...and Nana picks out the shell. When they visited us this summer they really enjoyed harvesting the garden. They still wouldn't eat the green beans though.

  7. Sometimes I feel as if I am learning to cook again. I definitely and learning to cook for two after so many years of cooking for a large family. I love that you are sharing your skills with fifth graders. Most kids really love to learn how to work in the kitchen. I think it is so important to teach them that they don't have to just go eat a fast food offering.

  8. What a fun thing to do with 5th graders. I look forward to reading about that adventure!

  9. I love this idea and can't wait to read about it here. Several years ago I volunteered at our local school for an after school program that involved harvesting from the school garden and preparing foods for a school-wide harvest festival. These 4th graders had a blast cooking up a storm, and many of them had never done any or much cooking with their parents. Such a far cry from my childhood, and, a sign of the times, I think.