“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” Quoted from John Lennon
On this particular day I was really starting to run out of groceries and only happened to have a few potatoes, some garlic, mayonnaise and a lemon at the dorm. It happened to be a Monday, which meant I had four hours of class to sit through. The night before I watched the movie Julie and Julia and for the life of me, all I could think about that Monday was the scene when Julie made Julia Child’s recipe for artichokes with hollandaise! I was craving some artichokes. They’re in season during the springtime so I figured the artichokes would be fairly inexpensive. In the end I suppose I was mistaken for even thinking they would be readily available! Unfortunately, when I get my mind set on something, I really cannot stop thinking about it until I get to eat it, so I ended up walking to four different grocery stores after class until I finally found one with artichokes in stock AND I happened to get the very last one! I proceeded to go home and make artichokes with a garlic lemon aioli dipping sauce and homemade pommes frites on the side. I cannot begin to explain how comforting and satisfying that meal was after the amount of work that went into making it.
Last week I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer through the organization Wellness In The Schools. I recently obtained an internship at the non-profit organization and I am very excited to learn as much as I can from the people who work there! Wellness In The Schools is a great organization, it is a small group of dedicated women who work alongside chefs, counselors and teachers to develop and teach nutrition programs to children attending New York City public schools. Chefs and volunteers also do cooking demonstrations with classes across the city. I really stand behind this program because I believe that the best way to reverse the current health crisis in America is to begin with young children. I think that the younger people are educated, the easier it is to make a change. I think everyone can agree that it is easier to develop healthy habits when a person is young rather than breaking a habit at an older age.
Every Tuesday I travel to the upper west side where Wellness In The Schools is located. So far I have been able to do everything from research for an upcoming benefit to writing blurbs for a newsletter and even putting together kits for cooking demonstrations. This brings me to the exciting part. Last Wednesday I was able to take part in one of the cooking demonstrations at a school in Chelsea! One of the volunteers was unable to make it so I took the spot. I woke up at the crack of dawn in order to navigate my way through the unfamiliar subway route to this school. I did get lost in the end, much as I expected that I would. However, all was fine because I wasn’t too late for the job. I had such a great time! First I met the resident chef, a woman named Cynthia who has worked kitchens in Chelsea but who now chooses to work for the school. There was also another volunteer chef, who I worked alongside and chatted with for a good two hours before I found out that she is a judge on the Food Network show Chopped! I was so excited, I don’t think I did a very good job hiding my enthusiasm. On our down time between classes I got to speak to the two chefs about their life experiences and got the opportunity to ask them for some advice. I even managed to slip some of my food show ideas into conversation with Amanda. (The Chopped judge)
Anyway, getting back to Wellness In The Schools, I just wanted to explain how wonderful it was to see their work implemented in real life. Each cooking lesson has a theme, and that day was potato day! Specifically, we showed the children how to make roasted potatoes, a healthy alternative to French fries. Before each class came we laid out cutting boards with plastic knives as well as a few potatoes with bowls of salt and rosemary. Once the children arrived we explained the recipe and taught them how to cut the potatoes. I thought it was a cute trick to have the kids pretend to make a “bear claw” with their hand to do the proper technique for cutting food while protecting themselves. As the potatoes roasted up we explained nutrition and fun facts about the vegetable. We then wrapped up the demonstration by giving each child a sample of the finished product. The results were amazing! Every single person tried the potatoes and almost everyone loved them. This was a feat because most of the kids were very apprehensive about trying rosemary. It was really fulfilling to hear children talking to one another as they left about how they wanted to make the potatoes at home with their families. This was the exact result we had hoped for. I also loved being able to work with the little kids. They were all adorable, if a little bit mischievous, and they knew some things that even I did not know! I left the class with enough potatoes to feed me for a week and an intensely maternal feeling, forcibly reminding myself that I’m not ready to be a mom for at least another five years. My hope is that Wellness In The Schools and other educational programs can continue to expand and teach new ways for children to eat fruits and vegetables.
Wow I am so behind! Classes are really starting to get busy and midterms are around the corner! The weather is also starting to change which means of course I have caught the most horrible cold! Whenever I am sick I really crave comfort food so I have been making a lot of it. When I think of comfort food, I’m thinking french or italian. Starting with last week I decided to have some homemade pomme frites and steak! It was delicious. I wasnt sure what type of meat to get so I let the butcher on arthur avenue decide for me. He gave me huge strips of the thinnest sliced beef I have ever seen. I think it was a top round? Anyways, I ended up just briefly searing either side and topping it with my usual mushrooms sauteed in garlic, onions and wine. The Pomme Frites turned out really well too. They took a lot longer than I had expected and stuck to the pan (so next time I will most likely line the pan with tin foil and lots of pam or butter) but they were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside! Before baking them I cut the potatoes up and tossed them in a mixture of olive oil, corse sea salt and pepper, as well as freshly chopped rosemary. I’m really glad the meal worked out seeing as halfway through the cooking process we had a fire drill and I was forced to leave everything! I did take a picture but it came out blurry, luckily today I get to pick up my camera at best buy! It broke a month ago and has finally been fixed!