Summer is finally here, which means we now see a steady supply of fresh vegetables from our farm subscription. Luckily, I have a creative and industrious kitchen helper in the form of my daughter, who from a young age has been cooking and learning about healthy eating. A big part of her enthusiasm has been due to classes that she has taken from Tamara Flanders, local holistic health counselor, cookbook author, and cooking teacher extraordinaire.
We first met Tamara a few years ago, when she offered a healthy cooking class for kids at the Schenectady YWCA. After learning how to make different dressings from scratch, the kids put together their own salads using a wide variety of different fresh veggies. This is where the miracle occurred: my kid picked raw shredded beets as one of the many choices for her salad, and proudly proclaims to this day that she loves beets. Good thing, because baby beets were in one of our first bags of produce this season. Her father is still skeptical, but she took the initiative to mock him for his reluctance to broaden his horizons. No nagging needed from me! Score!
More recently, we met Tamara again in our local homeschool co-op, where she offered classes to kids of all ages to do a community lunch. It’s quite an undertaking, there are about 30-40 people total, including adults, and the kids do all the cooking. The whole operation is done with lots of patience and humor and the kids have tons of fun while they learn new recipes and food preparation techniques. As nice perk for the adults, all we have to do is show up and eat!
My daughter has really become more confident in the kitchen, and it’s been great having her as my right hand. She gets right in with the stirring, chopping, and is not shy about offering her opinion on what seasonings need to be adjusted, or what we should cook next. You’d get that with any regular exposure to cooking at home or in a class. The big difference here is that she appreciates good healthy whole foods, isn’t wary of trying new combinations or flavors, and actually regards the words “good for you” as a feature to be desired. The next class she wants to take is this summer’s Nutrition for Young Athletes, where she’ll learn about the role of good nutritional balance for active kids to feel their best. (Please note that we’ve received no special consideration for this class, we just really like Tamara and her approach, and wanted to spread the word!)
We still do our share of not-exactly-healthy baking, but it’s nice to have an ally and a co-worker when I’m in the kitchen trying to figure out some new way to serve that week’s veggie bounty. She’s developing a good sense of balance, and has come up with some great ideas. Plus, it’s hilarious when she calls her father and brother out and won’t tolerate grumbling when we have something new to try.
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Gina Martin | lives in Coxsackie NY with her husband, their two children, and an assortment of Rottweilers and cats. Gina has been a homeschooling parent since 2003, and is also proud parent of a Tech Valley High School student. Gina is the creator of ModSchooler, her blog about 21st -century learning and fun, and is a contributor to From Scratch Club writing on food and food policy. As lifelong learners, Gina and her tween and teen kids like to go off the beaten path to explore quirky travel destinations, unusual cuisine, and all things geeky. Email: GinaMartin@AlbanyKid.com, twitter: @GinaMartinBlogs