They loved to scoop out the baked sweet potato from its skin. They jumped at the opportunity to squeeze lemon, shred kale and cilantro and cut the Chipotle pepper and radish. When it was time to add the cumin, salt and pepper, they all would jump at the opportunity to pinch the spices and sprinkle it over the dish. They added the corn and took turns mixing the sweet potato mixture, putting it back into the skin, sprinkling cheese and putting it on the sheet pan.
While it was in the oven they would quickly clean up their station to prepare for lunch. The counselors would put the sweet potato on the campers’ plate and we served ourselves.
From my first spoonful, I loved the dish.
The balance of the saltiness of the cheese with the sweetness of the sweet potato mixture, the corn that added a crispy texture to the creamy sweet potato and the freshness that the cilantro added was nirvana.
We asked the young chefs how they felt about the dish, I saw a couple of stuffed mouths nodding their heads and putting their thumbs up. But then I saw a few thumbs sideways and we asked what can we do to make it a thumbs up. Some children said that they don’t like spicy foods. The one comment that stuck to me the most was, “I like the flavor, but not the textures, there is too much going on here.”
During my time at summer camp I loved to see the campers curious to learn the different components of a dish, even if they know what is in it they love to see it separately. I can very much relate this to food service. When working at schools, I see kids enthusiastic to go to the cold bar after they get their flavorful hot food item, because it is their chance to create their own, or in other words, be a chef.
I love seeing them pick and choose different items to make a vegetarian wrap or make a yogurt parfait. It shows that kids love to make their own meals from an early age, which can help expand their minds and allows them to express their inner passion and creativity.
This post was written by Kelly Laurent, Food + Garden Summer Camp Counselor & Food Service Associate