“What is the first thing we do in cooking class?” I ask my students. Often I am met with blank stares. It’s sort of a trick question–the first thing we do in cooking isn’t a cooking thing at all. We wash our hands. N0t only because kids are germ playgrounds. Hand washing is something of a costume change. It denotes the start of something, an amuse bouche if you will.
Our classes are punctuated by these small rituals–the pump of soap onto a tiny palm, rubbing the hands together and rinsing off in lukewarm water. Next we consult our recipe or talk about ingredients (depending on the age group and their reading level.) Consistency is a valuable teaching technique with children, but it also imbues the classes with a greater sense of calm, to the extent that’s possible when you have a room full of 15 rabble-rousers.
Food preparation affords us a rare moment to reconnect with ritual. Certain foods are inextricably linked to traditions of human experience–the Passover Seder plate, a specific balance of bitter herbs, oral tradition, and ritualized hand washing (and sometimes Matzo Ball Soup.) Eating is an experience that engages all of our senses, which is why we challenge our students to be curious about their ingredients. What does a scallion feel and smell like? Can you pick out the bright dash of carrot shredded in with the zucchini? How do you react to the sharp smell of cumin beside cinnamon’s enticing aroma?
I encourage you to approach the following recipe with a mind to ritual. Start by washing your hands, then surrender to the repetition of grating, picking the cilantro. The vegan coconut curry sauce has a complimentary flavor and creamy texture that garnered rave reviews from my four year olds.
2 zucchini, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
2 scallions, sliced thin
2 small to medium-sized cloves garlic, minced
1 flax egg
1/2 cup gluten-free or buckwheat flour
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
- Shred zucchini and carrot. Place shreds on a paper towel and press to remove water. Place all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Mix to evenly combine.
- Warm olive oil on a skillet over medium-high heat. Use a 1/4 cup scoop, pressing batter firmly into scoop, then flipping onto skillet.
- Use a spatula to press flat. Cook about 3 minutes to brown. Flip, cook another 3 minutes. Serve warm.
- This dish can be served with applesauce, sour cream, or guacamole on the side, a sunny egg over the top, with a spritz of lime, or soy sauce, as is- or however else you dream it up.
Don’t be afraid to switch up, or mix up veggies – carrots, winter squash, corn, leafy greens – can all be used with delicious success.
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- 1 cup full fat, canned coconut milk
- 2 tbsp tamari
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- Blend all ingredients or whisk them together till smooth.