Heritage Cooking With Kids
When my daughter's school presented their annual multi-cultural studies, I decided to share the wonderful treasures of local foods and how to cook them with health and heritage values in mind. My daughter's class studied Ireland, so I took advantage of our somewhat Irish decent to make soda bread and corned beef with the kids.
Yes, I am aware that corned beef is not 100% Irish, but then again, neither am I. The reason I love to make corned beef and soda bread is that these foods demonstrate the amount of work that was involved in heritage cooking.
Each year, my kids and I grind our wheat berries from local Massa organics into whole wheat flour, churn fresh cream from Strauss creamery into butter, use the leftover whey from the cream or real "butter-milk" to soak the flour, and then make soda bread.
We also juice celery stalks from our CSA (for their natural nitrates), steal a bit of my homemade pickle brine, harvest pickling spices, and "corn" the Morris Grass Fed beef on our counter for a few days. Then we bake the bread, slow-cook the corned beef with cabbage, and slather on the homemade butter. It takes 3-5 days to complete the meal and the kids LOVE it!
I took this practice to my daughter's class and made the meal with 26 students. Over half told me, "I'm not going to like this," as they chopped cabbage and sprinkled in caraway and dill seed. But on day 3, they smelled the stew cooking for 6 hours in their room, watched the bread rise in the oven, and ultimately attacked the meal like starving vultures.
I was nervous to bring this lesson into a school with so many gluten free and dairy free kids, but it's important to me that kids realize why we have gluten allergies and dairy allergies in the first place. It has less to do with casein, gluten, or lactose, and more to do with the junk we've created since the time of consuming heritage wheat and raw milk. I don't think farmers from 100 years ago would even recognize refined white flour and today's buttermilk ingredients.
Don't Give Up On Wheat
In a time when "gluten free" is hitting it's heyday in popularity, I'm trying to teach people that it's not the wheat that's making them sick. It's the new, processed white flour that's made up of grain that's not properly prepared. Not one child in my daughter's class had trouble digesting our hand ground wheat flour that we soaked overnight in real butter-milk to "sour" the dough properly.
I explained to the class how a seed is on a mission to repopulate. It contains a barrier chemical that is indigestible to ward off animals and humans. We need to soak that seed until it sprouts to break through the barrier so that it doesn't damage the lining of our gut. This is why we "soured" the dough.
I knew it was a long shot to share all of this valuable information with 26 3rd graders, but I wanted to try. I was over joyed when my expectations were totally exceeded. Honestly, I was relieved and really happy they liked the food.
The class worked for 3 days on a meal together. They saw how the raw components from local farms came together, and how their work transformed ingredients into a delicious meal. I was pleased, whether or not they understood the depth of my teachings. The meal was simple, delicious, and nutritious, so it was a success.
Maybe the classroom is overwhelming, but heritage cooking is not. I am always interested in finding new heritage recipes and I think it’s important to share with our children. What traditional foods you can make with your family or friends so we can all expand our heritage cooking repertoire.