Brattleboro Reformer


Education Matters

Food Fundamentals

"I'll take Foods."

It was kind of like watching someone play on a game show, watching our son choose which courses would fit into his schedule. Food preparation has not been high on his list of "things I like to do". (His idea of cooking pretty much can be summed up by "if you boil it, he can cook it." Ramen noodles, mac & cheese, pasta in general... that is the teenage boy food group in a nutshell. Anything green, anything classified as a vegetable? Doesn't make the cut.)

I agreed with his choice. Somehow he had missed this at the middle school level, while his older brother had really enjoyed it. Learning to cook falls into that "fundamental survival skill" category.

The class is "designed to teach students about the study of food and nutrition," the informational handout stated. I've been trying to interject information about nutrition for years, I thought as I silently wished the teacher good luck on that front. So far, everything the football coach tells them ranks as the gospel truth... no matter what I've said about it previously. He notes regularly that he is "trying to eat healthily, like Coach says." I'd believe it more if he were not grabbing granola bars by the handful each morning, and eating only a tablespoon of the night's vegetable.

"Part of the class is learning to clean up," the foods teacher told me during the open house visit. "They have to pass my inspection." I love this idea! While all the kids help unload and load the dishwasher, that seems to be the end of their idea of "clean up". With enough "coaching," they now at least think about putting away the food. But wiping down counter tops? Taking out the garbage before being reminded (several times)? Emptying the recycling? Washing dishes by hand if they don't fit into the dishwasher? Not on their radar.

I have watched cautiously as he has come home each day. They have been going to Price Chopper each week, buying the ingredients for the foods that they will be preparing. He'll report back on their progress every once in a while. "We made pancakes today," he offered one night at supper. "They were good."

"Did you put blueberries in them?" his sister wanted to know. She, four years younger than he, makes them that way and is a big fan.

"No," he answered. "Just pancakes."

Their course outlines shows they will be working with grain foods, vegetables (ought to go over well?), fruits, dairy products, eggs, meat and poultry, salads, casseroles and soups, breads, cakes, cookies and pies, and foreign foods.

He is excited about the class in general. "This week we bought a box of brownies," he said. "We are going to have a competition. Some people are making them from scratch. And then some of us are making them from the box. We're going to see which ones come out better, if people can even tell."

I smile. I don't care if he uses a box for some things, really. I just want to know that, when we send this child off to the real world, he won't starve–or burn the house down. While he sees both of his parents cooking, apart and together, regularly, he has been most interested in the final product, not how it got to his plate.

If it takes being in a classroom full of friends, that's just fine. This is one part of his education that is clearly useful, no matter where he ends up after high school!

Jill Stahl Tyler is a parent to three children involved in the local schools, at the high school and elementary school levels. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at

Jill Stahl Tyler, President

Global Cow & Vermont Fascination

611 Ames Hill, Brattleboro, VT 05301

Tel: (802) 254-2879; Tollfree: (866) 267-2879 &

Sharing agriculture the world over!


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