Program builds on kids' cooking experiences

Rosemarie Perla has been doing it for eight years. Since Kelsey Weisgerber, another Slow Food Pittsburgh (SFP) member, joined her, they have reached 500 children through Teach A Kid to Cook (TAKC) classes, taught primarily at Whole Foods and Slow Food's Farmers@Firehouse markets.

The aim is to develop a curriculum that builds on stories and experiences of kids, leaders and parents.

Now, the two leaders are enlisting other SFP enthusiasts to join them to "cook it forward" -- to teach the next generation how to cook "good, clean, fair food."

The starting point is for a single person to cook with a small group of kids, ideally four, ages 8 to 15. Guidelines for potential leaders and parents are posted on the website, as well as in a brochure from TAKC.

Guidelines for other age groups are to be added.

The approach is straightforward, working with vegetables and following simple procedures. After all hands get washed, students tour the market where each chooses a vegetable, whether something familiar or new.

Back in the kitchen, delicious dishes are concocted from their choices. Kids start to learn the skills that they'll use all their cooking days -- for instance, shaping a roly-poly tomato so it has a flat base to sit on and safely slicing it.

There's lots of discussion about how the chosen vegetables might be cooked, whether they were grown locally or miles away, if they are organic, and what difference all that probably makes.

Then everyone sits down and has a leisurely meal together. Everything on the plate has to be tasted, even the stuff someone is sure he or she doesn't like. And give it a chance: chew each bite 10 times.

In their other lives, Ms. Perla is a career psychologist and executive coach. Ms. Weisgerber is food service director for Frick Environmental Charter School.

To get in touch, email Meanwhile, the two leaders are in charge of the kids when Marty's Market holds a parent-family member cooking class from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 26. That's at 2301 Smallman St. in the Strip. Sign up at

Freelancer Nancy Hanst:


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