It’s a chilly afternoon in Tupelo, Mississippi as I walk up to the door that’s holding back a classroom full of 2nd grade students who just ate lunch. With my hands filled with the supplies familiar to any FoodCorps service member—garden vegetables, bowls, miscellaneous ingredients, utensils–I nudge the door open to see 20 sets of eyes staring back at me. “Ms. Tylar!!” they exclaim. Here comes the moment of truth, the moment when I have to tell them that my motive for being here today is to make…salad. Here goes nothing.
But this isn’t just any salad. We’ll be using the beans that they sprouted in one of our previous lessons and kale from the garden. I show the class the bowl full of tiny germinated seeds, now magically transformed with pale, slender stems and miniature leaves. “Look how much our bean sprouts have grown!” I say. ” You guys must have had a real magic touch, huh?” “Woah!” they reply in unison. There is a feeling of anticipation in the air. This salad lesson is off to a good start.
“Today I’ve brought some ingredients so that you all can make your own kale salad, and after you’re done you can top it with our magical bean sprouts and some cranberries and try it out! How does that sound?” Without hesitation or enough time for me to break a sweat, I receive the response no adult would ever imagine after telling a bunch of 8 year olds that they are about to eat a kale salad: “YES!” “That’s so cool!” “That sounds awesome!” “Oh, I can’t wait!” As I pass out the supplies and ingredients, I silently ponder what alternate universe I have just entered.
Students tear off their kale leaves and stuff them into their baggies as I bring around lemon juice, olive oil and salt for them to “massage” into their leaves. Then they pour the tenderized kale into their bowls, which I top with a healthy sprinkling of the magical bean sprouts. They are pumped to give it all a taste. “Okay,” I said “On 3 we all give it a try…1…2…3.”
I’d be lying if I said they all enjoyed it, but the truth is that they all tried it and everyone tasted at least one new thing they hadn’t before. The best way to sum the experience up is through the words of a young girl who exclaimed over and over again, “I’ve never had salad before! I love it! Oh, I love it so much!” “Well,” I thought to myself “we’ll be doing this again.” Success.