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Kids in the Historical Redaction Kitchen

Kids in the kitchen
A class for Kids and Adults

Safety

There is a right way and a wrong way to do thing in the Kitchen, and its as important for kids to understand this as it is for Adults to make sure the kids can handle themselves. Here are some handy pointers:
1. Kids and fire: Adults should always directly supervise the use of stoves, grills, or other heat-making equipment such as coffee makers, crock pots, etc. Water temperature is another hot subject. Show kids how to quickly test the faucet temperature without getting burned. Pot handles should be turned so that unsuspecting small ones dont happen by just as the pot is being swept to the floor by an errant tippet!

2. Kids and machines: Adults should always directly supervise children who are unused to using machines such as blenders, mixers, food processors, etc. The correct method should be shown for using these tools: Clothing, utensils, hair and fingers must stay out of the way of any moving parts. The machine should never be overloaded, or moved while it is ON.

3. Kids and Sharps: Small children (under age 5) should only be given plastic or metal butter (table) knives. They can do a terrific job on soft items with these (dough, bread slices, cooked veggies, etc.). Older children can be given sharper knives IF they are instructed in the proper way to cut.

4. Things you dont realize can hurt you: Make sure to demonstrate safety with items such as graters (scraped knuckles), steel wool (inhaling steel dust), powdered cleansers (inhaled particles), liquid cleansers (eye irritation), and food items (salt, vinegar or pepper juice in the eyes).

5. Fatigue: Kids get tired much more quickly than adults. Make sure tasks are broken down into manageable portions, and make sure they are interesting. It also helps to have a special treat just for your young helpers. They will need a snack now and then.

6. Size related problems: Because Kids are shorter than adults, its important that they realize that they have to stay in certain areas in the kitchen. The WORST place for them to be is underfoot during the busy time, when hot pots are in transit and busy workers wont see that little head that just reaches the countertop. In a SCAdian kitchen, the busy time is when they come looking for MOM or to ask help. The best way around this is to establish a kid-friendly zone and ask your young helpers to stick to that area. Its best to put smaller children up on a chair or stool to do their work, or find work for them to do at a table just outside the kitchen door.

Hygiene

Not everyone realizes that you must be VERY clean in a kitchen to prevent the spread of disease. Here are some rules to help everyone maintain a clean kitchen:
1. Everyone must wash their hands as soon as they come into the kitchen, no matter what reason they are in there. The guy who pops in to get ice may have to move the apples out of the way in the fridge, and then pass along his germ to everyone who eats an apple. Thus, EVERYONE must wash his or her hands.

2. EVERYONE must tier back his or her hair. I usually provide a bag of hair ties for this purpose. I put it outside the Kitchen door, right next to my Kitchen Commandments (see the appendix).

3. All surfaces of the kitchen should be washed down with bleach water and dried before use. Though there are some neat anti-germ products on the market, tests show that they are not any more effective than bleach water (1/2-cup bleach to a gallon of water) at killing bacteria, virus, and germs.

4. Food safety is also important. Uncooked food (vegetables, dairy, and meats) should generally be kept cold. Food that is meant to be served hot should be kept at the proper temperature. Many folks have allergies, so it is important to wash a work surface between preparing ingredients. Dont chop onions on a board used to chop mushrooms for a different dish, without washing it in between, for instance, or use the same knife to chop both without washing it in between.
On to the Fun Stuff

Things kids are great at that make the feast a better, more fun experience:

Garnishes: Kids are pretty good at playing with food. We now know that all manners of interesting things were made from food in period.
Shapes can be cut from pastry, to garnish dishes. Bread dough can be made into interesting shapes. Pastry can be decorated to look like something else (cookies decorate to look like soldiers or shields, a gingerbread castle, or how about a field of bunnies cavorting over your applemoyse ot other creamy sweet dessert?).
Vegetables can become something else (radish roses are described in Taillevant, for instance). The Boke of Kervyng has descriptions for all sorts of vegetable items items we modernly make, so why not allow the kids to go wild?
Sotelties: If you have some delicate work to try, why not let the kids help? Almond paste (marzipan) is a perfectly historical modeling clay. Why not allow your younger cooks to mold fruits. You can either color the items before the clay is modeled, or you can paint them afterwards with food coloring. Sugar paste is another historical sweet that is readily available in the cake decorating section of large craft or grocery stores. Both these items can be molded with purchased or made molds (plaster of Paris, for instance). They can also be sculpted like earth clay or Play-Doh.

Simple recipes.
Children often excel at redacting simpler recipes, especially those from later period that have more modern language.
Here is a good example:
This recipe is from the original, which is excerpted from "The Closet of the Eminent Sir Kenelm Dibgy, Knight, Opened"
Cut pieces of quick, fat, rich, well-tasted cheese (as the best of Brye, Cheshire, &c, or sharp thick Cream-cheese) into a dish of thick beaten melted Butter, that hath served for Sparages or the like, or Pease, or other boiled sallet, or ragout of Meat, or gravy of Mutton: and, if you will, Chop some of the Asparages among it, or slices of Gambon of bacon, or fresh-collops, or Onions, or Sibboulets, or Anchovies, and set all this to melt upon a Chafing-dish of coals, and stir all well together, to Incorporate them, and when all is of an equal consistence, strew some gross White-pepper on it, and eat it with tosts or crusts of White-bread. You may scorch it at the top with a hot Fire-shovel.


No matter how you intend to incorporate kids into your kitchen routine, be sure to slake their thirst for knowledge. You can do that cheaply by allowing them to access a wealth of information on the Internet regarding historical food.


Email Dame Aoife, the author