I Heart Teaching

Monday, August 11, 2008

It's been a while since I was in a classroom teaching. When was the last time?

I think it had to be about three years ago. I was in front of a brand new giant cubicle-like classroom, one of those types with the squishy ready-for-new-push pin walls and the micro-central air which is always set to slightly below "Arctic Death". It was the new building at the Davis High School and I was trying to relay to a bunch of high school juniors why they should care about the green light at the end of The Great Gatsby.

For the most part it was a failure, not my teaching per se' but trying to make them care because high school juniors just want to go hang out or play ping-pong or do whatever underage young people do now.* I learned I wanted to teach college classes in my future. At least the students there are paying to be there and care to one effect or another. Not to dog high school students, it's just after dealing with parents and the fact that 50% of a class of juniors don't give a shit, I just wanted to teach older students. Plus, I want to talk on equal level with students and I hate curbing my swearing.

But this class was different. Teaching a cooking class kicks major fucking ass. (I said "F" on the blog, which means something here.)

I had roped Shankari and Ann together during the spring in an attempt to put on a cooking class together. I was intrigued and wanted to learn how to instruct a cooking class and wanted some guidance from them as they had experience. After a bit of advanced calculus, astrophysics, divining the stars, and synching our watches we were able to figure out a time to meet and discuss.

We then cobbled together a perfect little class: Cool Desserts for Hot Summer Nights. A simple hour and a half cooking class that would teach participants six basic desserts and their accompanying techniques which could be used for everyday balmy weather dessert cooking.

I made my poached pear sorbet with its subtle spice and spun silk mouthfeel, and followed it with a very popular espresso granita topped with some freshly whipped cream, which is a textural equivalent to any great oil painting with each and every intricate and monumental brush stroke.

Shankari made some intensely flavorful Indian fruit salad laced with rose water and cardamom, and topped with some toasted coconut and pistachios - a healthy dessert with a sanguine disposition to be sure. Her second dish was a glass of almond milk, barely sweetened and lightly fragranced with more cardamom giving the milk a brusque fullness that coated the senses.

Ann's Kir Royello, a jell-o take on the popular champagne drink, was creative and bubbly full of fresh berries and effervescent perk-u-up. Her summer panzanella salad with a brown sugar and butter reduction scented with bay, and fresh berries and mint was just... fresh. Fresh beyond words. It was this Parisian little dish that, when paired with yogurt, you just want to picnic up to a sunny hill and languish in the laziness of the day as it's fresh flavors can only remind you of sweet smelling summer winds in grassy knolls.

Honestly, we did well together. Our personalities and experiences complimented each other well, and where one of us might have dropped off, the other would pick up, and we all had good advice to give to the class.

It was more than just a learning experience for the students, it was a learning experience for me. I learned I was more than just effective at teaching grammar and literature, but darn it I think I make a good cooking teacher too!

As such, Lynn, the awesome headmaster over at Whole Foods, and I are looking at putting together a children's cupcake class this winter. It should be a lot of fun, so keep your eyes peeled!

*Not to say I didn't love my students. Many of them rocked my socks and I still talk to some of them. Just for the most part I decided I wanted to teach college because all the students in the class want to be there for one purpose or another and will actually pay attention I think.


  1. I had no idea you used to be a high school, Garrett. I went the other way- from university to high school. Oddly, the kids I teach at high school were more interested than those at college- probably because their parents were paying more than I earnt! I'd love to teach cooking if I ever am good enough. Annoyingly both schools I have taught/am going to teach in don't have kitchens.

    Then again, maybe it is for the best.... I don't know if I actually can cook without a glass of G&T by my side.

  2. i wish i was there. all three of you are supremely talented.

  3. You did a great job and your deserts were fabulous.

  4. The class was fun,inspiring, and informative. Also delicious!

    You seemed to bring "the fun" out in everyone. Thank you.

  5. As the parent of one high school student, the last of three, I feel that pain. I believe it takes a bit of a masochist to choose high school as the age group to teach. I equate it with choosing to be a proctologist when faced with all those warm fuzzy choices in medical school. I thank you for your service, much as I thank soldier I meet for facing the enemy we all fear. I wish my youngest could take one of your cooking classes. I think she would enjoy it since she does enjoy her time in the kitchen (as long as it doesn't involve washing dishes).

  6. You all did a nice job on the class. As one of the helpers, I always enjoy learning while helping. The three of you have great chemistry, offer different takes of the topic, and make the audience feel at ease. I look forward to your next class!

  7. I had a great time in your class but thought of something later...can I poach the pears in late harvest riesling and still make good sorbet? thanks!

  8. Erica - Yes, you could, but then use extra sugar and water, and not the poaching wine when you blend down the pears.


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