A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit in on a “Little Cooks and Gardeners” class at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. “The family program invites 3-5 year olds and their caregivers to the farm each week for 8 weeks to learn about growing food, to discover cooking techniques and tools, to gain confidence in the kitchen and to try new foods and recipes.”
The class started with a demo of cooking techniques and tools and an introduction to the recipe for the day, squash and bean soup. The little cooks then took part in cutting the squash (delicata and butternut) using handy child-safe carving tools and shelling the dragon beans. Caregivers provided assistance when needed and it was really impressive to watch how engaged and focused the children were on the activity.
Next was story time. The book of the day was One Bean by Anne Rockwell and this helped emphasize the connection between the beans that were growing outside on the farm and the ones that the children were using to make the soup. After this it was time to visit the Dooryard Garden and harvest kale. Each child got to pick a leaf of kale, break it into pieces and add it into the soup right before serving.
Finally it was time to eat! Each little cook and caregiver was served the delicious soup they had helped prepare and a glass of grapefruit fennel soda that was pre-made by the Stone Barn educators. Both were a big hit!
Each week features a new recipe that is based on what is seasonal and available on the farm. Besides the emphasis on seasonality and local eating, another benefit of the program is that it helps caregivers become more confident that they can in fact bring their little ones into the kitchen with them and involve them in the cooking process. It was wonderful to see how much the children enjoyed the various activities and how open they were to tasting foods that many of them had not been exposed to before.
Another session of “Little Cooks and Gardeners” will be offered in the spring and dates will be posted on the website in January. Visit http://www.stonebarnscenter.org/ to check for updated listings.