November 10, 2017 Carly Rospert

Cooking with the People of Madisonville

I won! So it seems. A financial gift to a doer feels as if a wise soul lifted my chin so that instead of seeing what is present, my surroundings, I can see the marvelous sky. A doer, does. I do because my heart wants to do so. So, when a doer gets help gifting others, doing happens with even more enthusiasm.

I am always in the midst of doing. This gift made me pause, step back and see what’s been, what is and what could be.

What I call a gift was an award from Strong Cincinnati and the Mayerson Academy. It allowed me to run a week-long Kids Cooking Camp and a six-session adult cooking course with the people of Madisonville.

From finding students, writing curriculum, organizing equipment, testing recipes, calling students, collecting data, lugging food around and teaching, I found myself understanding more clearly than ever, two things:

  1. I adore people and food.
  2. There is a reason cooking education is not common place (since it was removed from schools).

Not only does it take an extreme amount of detail oriented planning, organization, follow through, and physical hardiness, it also takes money. Money to cover ingredients, supplies (aprons, soap, pans, cups, spatulas, foil, to-go containers, towels, recipe print outs, binders, pens…) but also the organizer’s/teacher’s time (finding recipes that fit the dietary needs of the class, planning the flow of the class, printing off all recipes/handouts/legal forms, finding volunteers to help assist, buying ingredients, harvesting the seasonal ingredients, setting up the kitchen, teaching, taking pictures, cleaning up, and taking inventory for the next class). It is no wonder cooking education for middle to low income people is hard to come by!

If one was to charge only $20 a class (keeping it reasonable) and finds donated ingredients as well as kitchen space, one cannot even gain a reasonable hourly rate. Now consider food costs and rent costs. It is impossible without a financial partner.

Yet it’s vital! Lack of culinary education is the root of many illnesses, the loss of pride and independence and our path to a healthy future. It brings cultures and families closer. It is our international language.

There is a way to invite all to the table and it is through the making of the meal. We all eat and desire to eat food that creates a feeling of home, warmth and community.

Through Madisonville Cooks Youth Camp I met a wonderful, truly authentic boy. He was thrilled to cook, he so desperately wanted to do something well! Through the week-long camp, I picked up on his trouble reading and writing. I spoke to my Mother, who tutors dyslexic students. On the graduation day, she and the boy’s Mother met and within the blink of an eye, organized lessons for him. I said goodbye to the family that day with a hug and tears from the mother. She said, “my son has been withdrawn and sad until he met you and found cooking- thank you!” It was not the last time I would see the family. The boy has been my cooking assistant ever since, and the Mother attended the adult cooking course! Now they have more tools to connect and feel confident. They can cook and eat together!

My chin was lifted. I do the work by nature, whether a gift comes or not. However, Strong Cincinnati noticed. They made it possible for me to do more. Giving a financial gift to a doer is offering the next step to an entrepreneurial creation. Let the doers do!

-Kristen St. Clair, Project Lead for Madisonville Cooks