"What's that?" he asked.
"What?" I intoned, talking through a mouth full of soba and veggies. I caught his stare glued to the loaded fork that I was twirling in the air. (Since I usually eat at my desk my table manners are somewhat neolithic at work.) He was one of the kids bussed in to see one of the shows at my work, a local nonprofit theatre that brings the arts to kids. "You mean the broccoli?"
"The green thing is broccoli. It's, uh, well it's a vegetable. It's good when it isn't steamed. If it is I would avoid it, unless you cover it in butter. That usually fixes the problem."
He nodded again and scurried along.
Enter the California Food Literacy Center, a nonprofit armed with a small army of volunteers that go into Title 1 schools and teach programs about nutrition, healthy cooking, and local produce.
Amber Stott, the CEO, grand poobah, and prodigy behind the CFLC recently convinced the State Senate to declare September, Food Literacy Month. One of the programs Amber put into gear to celebrate this momentous month was getting local bloggers to meet up with local urban youth and teach them a few healthy eating and cooking practices (more on that in a bit).
It was through this that Stephanie and I met Mychel. She's blonde, outspoken, precocious, and likely to either save a small country or viciously conquer it (though I imagine both would have similar results). We decided to go with something simple. Something affordable. Something any kid would love.
"I hate grilled cheese," said Mychel.
After Steph held me back and I calmed down a bit with a little inner dialogue, ("It's okay, Garrett. Some children just don't know better. Maybe she's a communist?") we went to work breaking the sammich down.
"This is no mere grilled cheese. Try this." I handed Mychel a piece of sharp, butter-colored Cabot cheddar. She nibbled it curiously and then, like a flare, lit up. Approval at its finest.
"Do you like peaches?" asked Stephanie.
"I LOVE peaches!" Well, of course she would. Who doesn't?
We explained that all we would do would combine the cheese and peaches together with some bread, butter, and a smear of mustard.
She went through the steps of smearing heart-stopping blobs of butter across sourdough, trimming peaches, and wielding a knife longer than her spine to carve up cheese - all like a pro. She grilled, she observed, we taught her to listen and smell the sandwich as it cooked to know when it was done.
And you know what? She loved it. We had changed her mind about grilled cheese.
Her mom also hates us now. Apparently, grilled cheese is all Mychel wants anymore. However, mom is able to now serve her many more vegetable and fruits by slipping them into the sandwich (and many of them Michael now requests so, you know, huzzah).
California Food Literacy Center presents the Kids Recipe Contest
To celebrate California’s first Food Literacy Month, on September 7 the California Food Literacy Center will launch their Kids Recipe Contest, which encourages children to get into the kitchen and learn about the food they put into their bodies. Only kids can enter the contest, and the recipes they submit must be created entirely by themselves with no adult involvement. The recipe contest will run through the month of September.
In early October a team of local chefs and food writers will select the winning recipes, and the lucky winning kid will get a certificate for a CSA box from Farm Fresh to You and their recipes will be posted on our California Food Literacy website. Besides the Kids Recipe Contest, the Food Literacy Center will also be announcing the Veggie of the Year, with one vegetable being chosen by the K-5th graders at Capitol Heights Academy. Their choice will be the featured vegetable for the recipe contest. How cool is it that a bunch of elementary school students will be selecting their favorite veggie? That just tickles me.
More info: The California Food Literacy Center is a non-government 501c3 nonprofit. The organization helps kids develop healthy food habits while they are young by celebrating vegetables, teaching 2,400 low-income K-5th grade students annually through local nonprofits and schools. Founded in 2011, their mission is to inspire change today for a healthy, sustainable tomorrow through enduring community food education. Want to find out more about Food Literacy Month or get involved? Click here for more details. I’d also like to take a second to thank the sponsor for the contest, Elise Bauer and SimplyRecipes.com.
And now, the recipe...
P.S. Photos here were done by the lovely Marita of Food, Love & Tradition.
Cheddar & Peach Grilled Cheese
4 slices of sourdough bread
Butter, at room temperature
1 yellow peach, peeled, pit removed, and sliced
¼ pound Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cheese, grated
1. Spread butter on one side of each piece of sourdough bread and lay the slices butter-side down on a plate. For each sandwich, spread the un-buttered side of only one slice of bread with Dijon. Or spread both. Whatevs.
2. Cover just the mustard-spread slices of bread with a generous amount of shredded cheese, then follow with a layer of sliced peaches. Top each sandwich with another slice of bread, butter-side up.
3. Place the sandwich in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Cover with the lid and let them cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until golden. Watch carefully – grilled cheese sandwiches go from golden to burnt in the blink of an eye! Lower the heat to medium and very carefully flip the sandwiches, making sure they does not fall apart while flipping.
4. Cook for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. The second side will cook faster than the first, so keep an eye on it. Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately.