Hey friends! I’ve mentioned a few times that my friend Kelly recently had her first novel published. Kelly and I have been friends for over 30 years (gosh, that makes me feel old…) and were even the maid-of-honor in each others wedding.
Aren’t we sweet?
Kelly has always been a talented writer. She was always writing something all through our childhood and teen years and just had such a knack for storytelling. Just like me, she is a former high school teacher and decided to throw caution to the wind and see what happened. Being a writer has always been Kelly’s dream and I am so crazy proud of her for making it a reality!
Without further ado- here’s Kelly to tell you more about her debut novel Taste Test and the importance of teaching your kids to cook (at any age!).
Lauren, thanks so much for having me! It’s a privilege to get to talk to your readers!
When my first novel debuted last month, I felt more than just elation (although there was a lot of elation!) I also felt opportunity. My novel, Taste Test, is all about teens cooking – in this case, cooking on a teen reality show like Top Chef. Writing the novel was a blast and I’m thrilled I get to share it with the world – but, more than that, I’m thrilled that it allows me the opportunity to speak about cooking and teens. More specifically, about how teens should be doing more cooking and how it can only open doors for them in the future.
When I taught high school English, one of the most popular classes was called Commercial Foods. Run by a former chef, the class centered on the skills of cooking. The dishes ranged from simple (bacon) to complex (duck confit) and students felt a sense of accomplishment when they ate, served, or brought home their results.
There are a lot of current campaigns and movements that are trying to combat childhood obesity – they range from government-endorsed ideas to celebrity-inspired endeavors. They are great campaigns. They are important. But, in my opinion, many of them are missing a key component in their approach.
It isn’t just about exercise. It isn’t just about the food you eat. It’s also about a child’s relationship to that food and what role he or she played in its conception or creation.
Now, to be fair, this really only applies to children old enough to cook safely, even with the help of their parents or guardians. But this role, this responsibility, allows for kids as young as nine or ten to feel proud of the food they’ve made. They are driven by the end result which, when it comes to food, is almost always tangible (if not edible every time.)
Tangibility is important for the American child surrounded by results they can’t see or feel. They are assessed by test scores and rubrics and they are measured against standards that are anything but relatable. In our education system, our children are being pushed toward S.T.E.M. courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) with the hope that they will find careers in those same fields. However, I can’t help but wonder why food isn’t implemented into these S.T.E.M.-focused classes and lesson plans. The chemistry of baking is an exact science. The measurement of ingredients in any dish shows the necessity of math skills. Technology is inundating our kitchens in its own way as well – although I’d argue that cooking is one of the only skills in the world where the “new way” of the technological food breakthroughs aren’t a better way or even a faster way. In fact, the technology might be making us fat through things like, oh, the hydrogenation of vegetable oil into shortening, for example. Or the manufacturing of high fructose corn syrup from a starchy vegetable.
Engineering is the last skill, and it might be my favorite to talk about in terms of food. If you consider food architecture – the ratios of the plate and how that influences the food and the way that it is served – it couldn’t be more technical or exact. Watch any chef plating a meal and you’ll see that it’s more than simple thought that goes into his or her choices. It’s a science perfected through practice and method.
In the end, we need to start putting the role of “eater” on the back burner and start emphasizing the role of “creator” when it comes to the food our children are consuming. It might not be able to be an everyday thing in your family, which is all the more reason why a course in school would be that much more vital. However, since it seems that school reform is a little more complicated than the choices we make at home, I encourage parents to cook with their kids, and not just when they’re little. When they’re a “tween” in middle school, show them how to follow a recipe. When they’re in high school, let them take their teen angst out with a rolling pin or a meat mallet (on the food, of course!) Even better, give them free reign to make dinner. Offer to pay them for their service, as though you were going out to eat. It isn’t bribery – it’s a lesson. It will show them the value of good service and good food. It will get them in the kitchen eating with you. When is the last time your teen voluntarily sat down to a meal without rolling his/her eyes or texting the whole time?
Taste Test gave me the opportunity to cook frequently, especially when I was testing recipes to go into the book. However, my favorite cooking moments are the ones where my five year-old son is helping me. There is no reason why those moments can’t happen when he’s eight or fifteen or twenty-five. Cooking is the original cooperative learning environment. It’s the original hands-on approach. The fact remains that recipes can fail – but when there are beaters to lick or another dish to try, that failure feels less devastating and more delicious for everyone involved.
Kelly Fiore is an author, foodie, and Fiat lover living in central Maryland. Taste Test is her first novel.
And now- THE GIVEAWAY*!!
You have THREE chances to enter to win your very own autographed copy of Taste Test:
- Leave a comment below telling me why you love to cook/what it means to you.
- Follow @kellyannfiore on Twitter
- Tweet about the giveaway by copying the following text: Enter to win an autographed copy of @kellyannfiore’s novel Taste Test here: http://wp.me/p2oUXk-384
(Make sure you leave a separate comment below for each entry!)
* contest open to U.S. residents only
The contest will remain open until Thursday, October 3rd at 8:00 pm EST. A winner will be announced here on the blog the following morning. GOOD LUCK!!