Read Time: 4 Minutes
In Search Of A Birthday Gift
A treasure has landed in Alexandria, Virginia! A lovely space in a home dedicated to helping children learn how to cook, sit at a table, organize a menu, and taste new foods — all painlessly and all away from the Dinner Doomsday voice of their parents. This kid-heaven is led by a gifted children’s teacher who is interested in sustainability, foods from other cultures and organic choices. I found Mari Coelho this summer when I was looking for a birthday present to give to a grandson who has loved to cook since age three. I was eager for a gift of an experience rather than a toy or clothing. I had looked at children’s cooking classes at some chain cooking stores, which I knew from experience are focused on parents buying the store’s merchandise after the “lesson”. Instead, I chose three wonderful classes at Together We Cook, a children’s cooking school, for this adventurous now-four-year-old who embraces savory as well as chocolate, wants to fry regardless of popping fat, and does not think mixing eggs into flour is yucky. After his first class in making pasta, pesto, and strawberries in chocolate, he was hooked, and we repeated the menu for a dinner to showcase his new-found expertise.
A Brazilian Background For Together We Cook
Mari Coelho was a lawyer in Sao Paolo, Brazil, who took courses at the Escola Wilma Kövesi. She later benefited from living in Tunisia, where she cooked in the North African vernacular. When she moved to DC, she worked the breakfast shift at Miriam’s Kitchen and assisted cooking classes at L’Academie De Cuisine. So those experiences, along with her own observations on raising three children, became the basis of Mari’s current philosophy for Together We Cook. Her classes are all hands-on and designed for ages 3 through 14. In addition to tailoring the classes so that the cooking skills are age-appropriate, she uses fresh, organic and local ingredients. I was intrigued that she went on a local foraging expedition and personally cooked with her carefully guided finds. She’s determined that children learn about seasonability of the ingredients they use in their lessons, that they be exposed to new foods – miso soup for example – and she stresses kitchen safety in each class. Science is touched on, and the geography of foods and their nutrition are artfully woven into each class. And it helps that Mari encourages her students to assist each other. My own children, now parents themselves, said they benefited while growing up from gaining a greater knowledge about food rather than being led by packaging, and they became quite independent and thoughtful in their food choices. I think you will see that the child on whom you bestow one of Mari’s classes will develop a pride of ownership when he or she cooks at home.
The Set-Up For Classes
When you enter the charming and welcoming “class room,” the walls are lined with blackboards — one with the menu for the class, the others holding measuring devices the children will learn about. There is a selection of food periodicals used in the class to give children a greater understanding of the ingredients in their lesson. A central table used first for preparing the menu and later for dining on the results fills a large part of the space. Basins for washing foods (and yes, also dishes!) are on a side table at the appropriate height. A stand for children’s aprons and oven mitts is within easy reach, and each child gets to choose a special cook’s hat that Mari has had made in Brazil.