I Don’t Like Apples

As you know, I am really pumped about being auctioned off with Axel Begner to help raise money, during the Fundy Food Festival, for the Boys and Girls Club. In part because it will be a blast to be in the kitchen with Axel but more importantly, for the kids from the Boys and Girls Club. I see them everyday, making their way to school or playing outside on the sidewalks. The neighborhood that I live in houses two very different worlds. The world that many of the Boys and Girls Club members belong to is one of extreme poverty.

Several years ago, I served on our municipal council. It was during that time that I had the opportunity to understand, a little more, about the lives of children growing up in poverty. Rather than bore you with stats, I will share with you a few of my experiences from a cooking course for teens that I developed and taught. I was given some guidance by the executive director of the Boys and Girls Club, Debbie Cooper, to ensure that the kids would at least give the course a try. She advised that I not assume the teens would have any great knowledge of fresh ingredients or that they had ever been exposed to any kind of nutritional guidance in their homes.

Armed with that information and a very small budget, I came up with a program that would focus on one main common ingredient cooked in three different ways. I wanted the class to be interactive, rather than me lecturing, so Debbie provided each child with an apron and a pairing knife. As we were using the club’s kitchen, there were lots of bowls and spoons and miscellaneous kitchen utensils available for us to use.

The first day of the course I could feel a sense of resistance from the teens. At 13 and 14 years old, the thought of putting on an apron was humiliating. They scoffed at the half bushel of apples sitting on the work table. I heard a resounding, “I don’t like apples”…  

We started with baked apples. I taught them to carve out the core of the apple with their pairing knives. It was so interesting to watch as they cut into the fruit and smelled the delicious aroma. We stuffed the apples with brown sugar and a little piece of cinnamon bark. The conversation about cinnamon bark was priceless… As the apples went into the oven, a few of the girls sheepishly put on their aprons.

I wanted to see if they really didn’t like apples or simply had not been exposed to them. So, as we were making the apple sauce, I started to chew on one of my apple peelings. My conversation stayed focused on the safe mechanics of peeling with a knife. One by one, each student started to eat their own peelings. By the time we were finished preparing the apples for the sauce, there were no peelings left. They loved them!

The applesauce was cooked at the same time as the baked apples were coming out of the oven. The smell in that kitchen was fantastic and the kids were having a ball.

The third way we used the apples was in a crisp. In two hours, they had gone from not liking apples to peeling, cooking and devouring half a bushel.

I spent four weeks with those boys and girls. As each week passed, they became more confident and adventurous with our food conversations. They were fascinated that food did not start out frozen or in a tin. I have always believed that being able to feed yourself well is one of the most important skills we can possess. When I say ‘well’, I do not mean extravagantly but rather healthily. It is not difficult to prepare delicious, healthy meals, if you are taught to cook. I understood that those kids had far bigger problems to worry about than whether or not they were eating instant potatoes or homemade mashed. Still, I like to think that, at some point in their lives, those skills will serve them.

APPLE CRISP

serves 6

preheat oven 375*F

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Mix together and place in a greased eight inch baking dish

2/3 cup flour

1/2 cup Quick Oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup soft butter

Stir together flour, brown sugar and salt in medium-sized mixing bowl…cut in butter using pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal…gently toss in oats

Sprinkle flour mixture over fruit and place baking dish in oven.

Bake 30 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Serve with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream.

Note: Most Apple Crisp recipes use cinnamon and nutmeg but I prefer the pure flavour of the apples. Feel free to add whatever spices you like… 

Thanks for reading.