Last week I volunteered, as I do every month, with a group of fourth grade students at an economically disadvantaged elementary school participating in Houston’s Recipe for Success program.
For example, Hot Pockets contain L-cysteine, which is commonly derived from human hair or duck feathers, so into a bowl went a handful of feathers. Another ingredient is BHT, used also in cosmetics and jet fuel, so a bit of lipstick was added to the bowl. You can imagine what the bowl looked like at the end of the demonstration.
Afterwards, the kids made their own “hot pockets” consisting of a pita triangle filled with sauteed kale and diced tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and shredded turkey and arugula tossed in a vinaigrette. The kids prepared all the ingredients, including the vinaigrette, and both the kale and arugula came from the school’s own garden.
Virtually every child dove right into their creation with enthusiasm, undeterred by the strongly flavored (and maybe unfamiliar) greens and vinaigrette. (One of the children in my group did surreptitiously flick the kale out of his hot pocket before sitting down at the table, but he was the exception.) This, of course, is what school garden advocates have been saying all along – if the kids can grow it and prepare it, they’re far more likely to eat it. And if even a few of these children think twice about eating processed junk like a Hot Pocket (and maybe even share that message with whoever shops for their families), then I consider the session a success.
More on my experiences with Recipe for Success next month.
On a related note, in preparing this post I stumbled upon this artist’s poster, which depicts a Hot Pocket’s ingredients in graphic form. Stylish, but still scary:
[Ed Note: I've learned that Chef Garth Blackburn was the original creator of this lesson plan for Recipe for Success. Want to give credit where it's due!]