During Chanukah, I had the delightful privilege of visiting my daughter's preschool class to teach them how to make latkes. They were adorably eager little chefs, totally enraptured by the process, thrilled with every chance to sniff an ingredient, measure, or stir. But the lesson almost didn't happen.
The day before, the teacher told me that due to allergy concerns, the school director had picked up latke mix. I spent the morning trying to figure out how to spin an exciting class out of the preparation of a boxed mix. No dice.
So I talked with the preschool director about why I thought it was so important to cook with the kids from scratch. I explained that as a Registered Dietitian, I was trained to be hyperattuned to allergy risks, and knew how to avoid cross-contamination. I promised to pick up a brand new box grater, knife, and cutting board, just in case the preschool kitchen lacked them. (It did.) I vowed to buy new ingredients and to prep them all onsite. Happily, I got the go-ahead, and the latke lesson was back on.
In the short time it took us to prepare latke batter and homemade applesauce, we explored so much. The kids played ingredient detective, using their eyes and noses to figure out which bowl held potatoes, and which held apples. They got to press liquid from the potatoes, and feel the silky starch that remained behind when we drained them. They thought about fractions, and figured out how many more kids could get a chance to measure if we used teaspoons instead of tablespoons. They went wild when they found out that there's such a thing as purple potatoes, and that we were using them in our Purple & White Potato Latkes. It's things like these that have always made me love cooking with kids. But I realized, too, what a great opportunity we had to learn together about Chanukah. The kids all associated latkes with the holiday, but they didn't really know why they're an iconic food. So we talked about the significance of the oil they're cooked in. I think it's a lesson they'll remember. I know I will.
Photo © Miri Rotkovitz