Monday, August 5, 2013

Who knew that washing dishes could be so much fun??

Photos courtesy of Brainfood
Last Friday marked the final day of the Takoma Academy Rising Tigers day camp, where I've been spending two days a week with middle schoolers teaching cooking in Langley Park for much of the summer. From the first day's Basics of Baking to the final session's Invent Your Own Pizza, the enthusiasm of the campers was positively infectious. And miracle of miracles, they actually loved doing the dishes.

Chattering away, rising 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th graders scraped and scrubbed, rinsed and sterilized, dried and stacked their dishes at the end of each session. I usually had one or two quality control folks at the drying end of the line who would send things back to the scrub station if anything looked questionable, but aside from a cracked pestle and a few broken glass bowls (note to self: do not buy glass bowls again) the dish crew pretty much took care of itself.

"I never knew doing dishes could be so much fun!" exclaimed Cerina as I came around the corner one afternoon with a load of mixing bowls and spoons. "Do we get to do this at the end of every class?" Yes, yes, you do. This is Brainfood, and among the youth development goals that we focus on in the program are accountability and being part of a community. We cook together, we clean together. Even so, I've never worked with folks who actually looked forward to washing up after cooking. (I mean, Kenton's a good sport and all, but I would be lying if I told you he was glad to hear my new apartment would not be coming with a dishwasher.)

I kid you not, when we had the end-of-camp open house for friends and family, I had five or six campers practically knock each other over to get to the kitchen to demonstrate how to use the dishwashing station. Scrape. Wash. Rinse. Sterilize. Dry. It was awesome. Parents took note. The kids also showed off their pizza dough kneading skills, their knowledge of the different food groups, and photos of themselves with the Signature Sandwiches that they'd made the week before. They impressed their parents with tales of trying (and liking) spinach and mushroom frittatas, kale basil pesto, and tofu berry smoothies -- "You don't even know that it's tofu, it's just really smooth and creamy!" -- and showed off the take-home recipe booklets that my fearless intern Sam and I had made for them. I hope I teach some of these kiddos again some day.

Not just because on their exit surveys some of the campers actually said that their favorite part of class was doing the dishes. To be fair, most of them listed the cooking portion as their favorite, but if some kids like washing up then more power to them. Oh, yes, I hope they sign up for Brainfood's after school program when they get to high school! (Unless Brainfood starts an after school program for middle schoolers in the meantime... I'd be so there.)

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