After a stretch of work travel and intense business, I’m home in bed to prevent the worsening of an oncoming cold. To prepare for hunkering down, I grabbed two types of chicken noodle soup from the store last night. Even when selecting higher-priced (read: higher quality?) options, I am left with the same conclusion I always have: homemade soup is best.
When I lived in Wisconsin, I would spend many a Sunday in winter making soup while listening to A Prairie Home Companion on NPR (long before the host was deemed to be a creep). I had a pretty basic understanding of the process: saute the aromatics, add spices or dried herbs, throw in protein or grain with broth or stock, load it up with more vegetables, simmer and season to taste.
Several years ago, I read Michael Pollan’s Cooked and learned the more intricate differences between soup bases (e.g., mirepoix, sofrito, etc.) and the history of braising. However, it wasn’t until I took a “Soups for the Season” cooking class at the acclaimed Culinary Institute of America that I began to really understand what makes really good soup. It’s not just the quality of ingredients or making it at home, it’s how it is shared.
When, where, and with whom we eat is just as (if not more) important than what we eat. Offering tastes without ever experiencing a meal is like teaching letter names without ever reading text. Learning the norms and practices for different meal times and types opens students eyes to just how diverse food is and provides an opportunity to build community through cuisine. Humans, especially, use food for more than fulfilling a biological need; this theme encourages peers to learn what common foodways they share.Common Core Cooking (2018)
Maybe that’s why the Common Core Cooking lesson “Something from Nothing,” was such a hit with the kinder students at Pueblo Vista Magnet School this year. The team of kinder teachers have used the “Something from Nothing” lesson in their unit about plant parts for several years now. It serves as a culminating activity to celebrate their learning and involve parents. This year teachers raved about their five- and six-year old students who could identify all the vegetables in their bowls after drawing their stone soup recipes.
Personally, I think it’s the way this team has grown in their enthusiasm for garden-based learning that made them enjoy the lesson so much this year. Like me getting better at cooking soup, they have improved upon the lesson year after year, which has built team unity and collaboration. Not only did the teachers eat carrots pulled from the ground on the day they planned the lesson, but they even recorded a video to share with students to teach how you know when a carrot is ready to be pulled. They take their students to the garden weekly now, compared to only seasonally a few years ago.
Like learning to cook, learning to garden with kids takes time. Similarly, a winning recipe for teaching teachers to fall in love with garden-based learning includes long-term commitment and a trial-and-error approach. But the payoff is worth it: just like making stone soup is good for the body and soul, making every teacher a food educator is good for society as a whole.
- Plant a soup garden.
- Sow & grow different kinds of carrots.
- Harvest herbs for sensory analysis