I’ve always realized the power of cooking with friends within my own life. I’ve seen how cooking can ease tension and create an open and relaxed environment where friends can talk freely. It’s worked better than therapy for my friends as we chop and simmer our way through serious topics, helping one another through life’s challenges and providing sound advice. But last week, even I was surprised at how powerful the process of cooking with others can be and it happened to be during my cooking class with my 6th, 7th and 8th graders.
We had just made dozens of homemade waffles, cracking eggs, mixing batter and tending the waffle maker and had some time to spare before dismissal. We sat around the table together, eating and sharing bits and pieces of one another’s lives. I was their teacher for sure, but with the relaxed atmosphere cooking and working together, we were peers, with age and hierarchy banished for just a short time. What happened next amidst this welcoming environment was remarkable as my students opened up to me about a bully that had been intimidating many kids in person and through Facebook, behaving badly for years. There were tears, hugs and comfort, as my students expressed fears they had so far kept only to themselves. It then was brought to the attention of the school and their concerns were appropriately dealt with.
I grew up cooking with my dad, chopping, slicing and dicing my way through my adolescent years full of its anxieties and challenges. It’s amazing how stress-free it is to communicate with pots, pans and sweet aromas as a comforting backdrop. And now, as a grown-up, I’m elated that I can provide a similar environment for a new generation of tweens and teens who face even greater challenges in this muddled world of social media. And it all started with a batch of homemade, crispy waffles with some warm maple syrup.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
4 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 ¾ cups 1% milk (a bit more if batter is too thick)
Pinch of salt
Mix together flours, sugar and salt. Whisk the eggs, milk and melted butter. Add the dry ingredients to the wet. Let batter stand for a few minutes while the waffle maker is heating. Cook waffles according to the specific waffle maker instructions. You can make the waffles in batches, cool and freeze in freezer bags.