Lebanon Soup Kitchen’s summer classes teach kids to cook

The Lebanon Soup Kitchen serves about 25,000 meals a year, and now it has added a new wrinkle to their services to the community: teaching kids how to cook meals.

“We want to train you to be creative, so you can cook something that nobody had ever made before,” Sean Casey, soup kitchen manager, told the group as he delivered pre-class instructions.

“It’s a basic thing that gives you freedom in your meal choices, instead of drive-thrus,” Casey said. “I think it’s important to get people interested in cooking and learning the basics of cooking because if you interviewed 10 people, one might know how to really cook.”

Saturday, July 14, the menu was carnitas, fajitas and salsas. Casey gave directions, and the class would follow along and got additional guidance as needed.

“I like cooking with my dad; its interesting,” said Silas Evans, 12. “When I came to class, something opened up that hasn’t in a while.”

Last year the soup kitchen offered a cooking camp in conjunction with the medical school on healthy alternatives, but they didn’t do much cooking. What Casey envisioned was the kids preparing complete meals in four hours.

“I love seeing this generation take care of themselves,” said Sami Pfleider, volunteer. “Learning how to cook and feed themselves, not rely on Mom, Dad, school, or someone else to boil an egg. So, the kids learn and grow, and our kids are taken care of.”

Some of the participants came with a friend; others just wanted to learn more about cooking.

“I have a passion for cooking. All of my family are bakers,” said Jaymeson McFarland, 11, who was back this year after participating last summer. “I like that we get to interact this year. Last year we didn’t.”

Whatever the age or reason for attending the cooking class, participants left with some new skills and a meal to take and show off their hard work.

“Seeing them open up, it’s really incredible,” Casey said. “They go home and cook the recipe and they have a whole world that opened up to that possibly that wasn’t there before.”

Two more classes will be offered this month: Baking cinnamon rolls, cookies and quick breads on Saturday, July 21;  and  pasta, sauces and Caesar salad ­with dessert, on Saturday, July 28.

“It’s educating as well as empowering them,” Casey said. “There is so much stuff you can make at home that is so simple if you just know the techniques. It’s one thing for kids to watch it on TV. I don’t give them recipes and say this is what we are cooking. We do have a menu we are preparing.”