Home (school) cookin'

Class teaches culinary talents to students beyond the classroom

Posted: Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

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  Lesly Gordon, right, serves up an Italian meal made by home-school students during a cooking class the former home-economics teacher offered at her home last month. The students included, from right, Rose Hardesty, Maggie Braun, Ellie Plate and Shane Hardesty. Photo by Jenni Dillon

From left, Maggie Braun, Ellie Plate and Rose Hardesty stuff homemade cannoli shells with ricotta cheese filling and vanilla pudding during an Italian cooking class Sept. 22.

Photo by Jenni Dillon

Fresh pesto, handmade cannoli and eggplant Parmesan.

It's not a typical school-day lunch.

But home-school students in the central Kenai Peninsula can cook, and eat, just such extravagant meals, thanks to classes offered by former home-economics teacher Lesly Gordon.

Gordon offers a handful of classes for home-schoolers from her Mackey Lake home. She started by providing sewing classes for home-school families, and just last spring added a series of cooking classes for the youth. Last month, four area home-schoolers gathered in Gordon's kitchen for three days to learn to make scrumptious Italian cuisine.

Rose Hardesty, 12, her brother Shane, 15, Maggie Braun, 12 and Ellie Plate, 16, signed up for Gordon's "A Little Taste of Italy." But they got a lot more than just a taste.

Meeting for three hours a day for three days, the students learned to cook a wide range of elaborate Italian meals. With the recipes came lessons in measuring and following directions; maintaining healthy food-preparation habits; and cleaning up along the way.

On Sept. 22 alone, the students made eggplant Parmesan (also known as moolanjohnny), focaccia bread, biscotti, pasta with pesto sauce and cannoli.

 

A cookbook guides home-school students as they prepare an authentic Italian meal during a cooking class at Lesly Gordon's home last month.

Photo by Jenni Dillon

Most are fairly complicated dishes, but Gordon believes in making things simple without "dumbing down" the lessons too far. She uses true Italian cookbooks for the recipes, but rewrites the instructions into step-by-step directions.

"I think some adults don't cook because they look at long recipes and think, 'That's hard,'" Gordon said.

The kids in her Italian cuisine course, though, wanted to know how to make the hard stuff.

Ellie, for example, said she thinks it's important to be able to cook to take care of a family. She has five brothers and sisters and said she first developed an interest in cooking when her mother was pregnant with the fifth.

"She was in the hospital for a while, and I wanted to know how to cook so my dad wouldn't have to be working and cooking and at the hospital with her," Ellie said.

 

Shane Hardesty, 15, rolls dough for biscotti cookies, while his sister, Rose, 11, stirs pasta during a cooking class last month.

Photo by Jenni Dillon

"Plus, it makes your brother like you a lot more when you can make desserts and snacks for him," she joked.

The Hardesty kids said they enjoy cooking and have learned quite a bit from their mother, as well as from a previous class they took with Gordon.

"I wanted to learn something about cooking besides from my mom," Rose said.

 

Lesly Gordon, right, serves up an Italian meal made by home-school students during a cooking class the former home-economics teacher offered at her home last month. The students included, from right, Rose Hardesty, Maggie Braun, Ellie Plate and Shane Hardesty.

Photo by Jenni Dillon

Gordon's class offered plenty to learn, as the students had hands-on practice in doing everything from making the pesto sauce to boiling the pasta to rolling, frying and filling the cannoli shells.

The class wasn't all work, though. At the end of the cooking, all the students had the opportunity to sit down and enjoy their home-cooked meal.

The kids were a little too busy enjoying the food to bother commenting on it, but several said they believed they could replicate the meal at home for their own families.

"She's a good cooking teacher," Rose said of Gordon.

"She's laid-back and doesn't get stressed out," added Ellie. "She makes it fun."

That's important to Gordon.

"You've gotta have fun," she said. "You can't worry if you spill or slop or burn something. You can always do it again."

Gordon's next set of classes for home-schoolers and traditional school children will be a Savory Soups and Sandwiches course offered Nov. 11 and 12 during in-service days. Students ages 8 and up will meet from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days, learning to make chicken noodle and tomato soups, as well as breads, sandwiches, desserts and salads.

Other classes Gordon offers include a "Breakfast Club" class featuring everything from sausages to pancakes, a "Cooking Cruise" class teaching how to make pies, breads and pizza, and a sewing class that covers the basics of working with sewing machines. For more information, call Gordon at 262-6089.



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