Plymouth students learn to cook at after-school cooking club
PLYMOUTH – Look for students from Plymouth Community Middle School to help out in the kitchen over the summer vacation.
A group of them became a baker during their pandemic year thanks to a virtual cooking club with health teacher Susanne Murphy.
A former home economics teacher, Murphy started the Thursday Afternoon After Thanksgiving Club for all students interested in learning how to cook a tasty meal or treat.
Murphy was posting a recipe to an online class forum on Monday to give students time to assemble the ingredients, then head home after school on Thursday to turn on the oven, turn on his computers, and lead a virtual class to to prepare dinner.
Murphy started with a children’s favorite, homemade macaroni and cheese, and expanded his menu to include a variety of Buffalo chicken, a taco casserole, ziti chicken and broccoli, and spaghetti carbonara. Honey teriyaki chicken thighs with roasted vegetables may have been the biggest hit with families.
The weekly recipes also included sweets. Students learned how to make strawberry shortcake with fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream, brownies and chocolate cake from scratch.
The class culminated just before school ended in June with a baking project sponsored by the King Arthur Baking Company. As part of its Baking For Good program, the flour company sent students kits containing two pounds of flour, baking powder, a scraper, and a bag with a twist tie.
The free outreach program teaches students how to bake bread at home using ingredients and comes with enough ingredients for two breads – one for the students to keep and one that is shared with someone in need or as a an act of kindness.
Normally, teachers like Murphy would pick up spare breads and give them to a pantry. This year, with the COVID-19 restrictions, students were asked to give the extra bread to a friend, neighbor or relative.
Murphy sometimes had as many as 24 students attending the club, with a core of nine dedicated bakers attending each class.
Everyone has learned something about fresh, healthy ingredients and the ability to create a nutritious meal. Two students may have even found a career path. They loved cooking so much that they planned to enroll in the Culinary Arts program of the District Technical Studies program at Plymouth South High School.
Murphy said parents were happy to see their children learning to cook on their own, but were also happy to know the children were bonding during an otherwise strange and distant school year.
“They lost connection with other children during the pandemic, so this ritual was something they looked forward to. They were thrilled to have this weekly connection with an adult and other students, ”Murphy said.
Murphy sent his students for the summer with a delicious but healthy pasta salad recipe. She plans to restart the club from Thursday afternoon in the fall.