The smell of something yummy almost beats you to the door as you open the front entrance of the Wayne Public Library.
The doors of the meeting room fail to contain the aromas or the children’s voices as they gather around Hilda Pearson to crush berries for a fruit salsa to go with today’s menu choice of stuffed french toast with cream cheese and ham at the library.
Pearson saw an opportunity to teach kids how to cook that went well with the library’s theme for the Summer Reading Program, which is “Build A Better World.”
“I thought we could build a menu and build a meal, so I thought it would fit in well with the theme of their program,” she said.
The group of six kids – Sophia Spieker, Regan Fernandez, Sammi Gubbels, Orion Spieker, Avery Gubbels and Lilly Gubbels – have not only learned about the various food groups, but they also learned how to cook certain meals and what goes into making something tasty, like a breakfast burrito, goulash or tacos.
And they’ve all learned how to handle the various cooking utensils – some learning the hard way.
“You need to keep your hand flat on the knife,” said one of the kids, who showed off how she learned with the scar of a small cut on her thumb.
Pearson said that she has concentrated on trying to incorporate all the food groups – dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables and grains – into each lesson so that kids understand the importance of a balanced meal.
“You have to have a variety of color, too,” she said. “There isn’t much variety when you have fish sticks, corn and macaroni and cheese, but one of the kids said her mother added parsley to the macaroni and cheese, so that adds color.”
The kids also learned some important tips about cooking, from thickening up a sauce with corn starch to using black beans as a substitute for hamburger.
“Hamburger can get to be expensive, and you can extend the meal by getting some black beans and draining off the juice,” she said.
The kids seemed to like the idea, she said.
“I think most of them thought it tasted even better with the beans,” she said.
Pearson felt it was important to offer the cooking class as part of the library’s reading program to give kids an opportunity to learn about cooking a good meal, which can be important with parents who have to juggle their work and family schedules.
“I think there are a lot of parents who need to have their kids learn how to cook to kind of help out, so I hope these kids have learned some good things about cooking,” she said. “I had a cooking business where I cooked families’ meals for a week and have always had the desire to teach kids how to cook, and these kids have been a great group to work with.
And it’s a win-win situation for the kids as well – not only do they get to learn how to cook tasty meals, but there are no dishes to clean up afterward.