This and that in the child and youth care business
Activity groups: "Don't be ridiculous! All we have to decide now is whether to turn this into a big game hunting group or a cooking group!"
Conversation with a child
This week at my practicum setting (an after-school care program) has been special because it is Spring Break and school is not in session. Instead the leaders and kids are going on daily outings in the community.
On Monday afternoon as we were in the bus driving back from a park, eight-year-old Sara, sitting in front of me, turned to me and said, "It's sad when your grandfather dies ..." She went on to tell me about her grandfather and shared her memories of him. I so admired her honesty and frankness. This incident also stirred up my own feelings about my deceased grandparent and reminded me of the importance of the extended family in a child's life.
Two seemingly conflicting viewpoints this month but they're both 100% right!
1. Brownie points
I'm not sure where the term Brownie points comes, but if I remember correctly from my own youth, if I had done something that deserved a reward of some kind, I'd sure prefer Brownies to Brownie points!
So here's a recipe from BBC Good Food magazine:
The classic brownie is sweet and chewy. This recipe is just that, with an extra chocolate kick thanks to cocoa. You can make them even chewier if you wish by using strong (bread) flour. (Recipe: Cindy Mitchell)
Preparation 10-15 minutes
Cooking 40 minutes
Makes 16 small squares
100g/4oz unsalted butter
100g/4oz plain chocolate
300g/10oz caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
125g/4oz plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/fan oven 160C from cold. Butter and line the base of an 18cm/7in square cake tin with greaseproof. Melt the butter and chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Stir in the sugar, salt and vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring well each time until blended. Add the flour and cocoa and beat for 30 seconds to 1 minute until smooth. Spoon the mixture into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is evenly coloured and a cocktail stick comes out almost clean; cool. Real cool.
2. Getting real
Marion Mason: My experience with adolescents in care is that they really appreciate learning some of the mysteries and special skills of cooking. There is a challenge in preparing a dish or a meal and within an hour or so there comes the test, the "proof of the pudding", the thrilling question "Who made this?"
The kids often talk about meals "when I'm at home
and have to cook ..." or "when I'm grown up and friends come to dinner
..." and it's so important to respond to these messages in a practical
The dishes they know from our group home cooking (the stews, the pies, the fry-ups) are such a good starting point. How to do the basic things and then how to add color, to vary, to garnish ...
What I am looking for is a really easy and flop-proof pie pastry they can get good at whipping up. A pie (savory, main course, sweet) is a really good stand-by, but most people including me! think that pastry is a difficult thing to embark on.
I know from working with these young people that they greatly value such comments as "Frank is so good at pizzas" or "We asked Shireen to do us one of her puddings tonight." We so often hear about cooking sessions with "treats and sweets" but I think youth in care benefit just as much from being involved with the really basic daily foods.
This boy, Danny, says to me at seven thirty just as he's going off to school "Hey Patrick, I really need a pair of clean white socks for that gymnasium class today."
It's a sore point. Danny (who's sixteen) knows that he is supposed to plan ahead, and in any case our older boys wash their own socks. The program is quite strict about keeping kids to plans, so I remind him of all this and refuse. He gets real angry and shouts about "This ... place!" and "Nobody cares ..." and heads off to school.
I worry about this a little during the day. We've been working hard on Danny, slowly reeling him in, and just seem to be getting somewhere. Pity that we have to provoke an outburst. Not that it was our fault he knew the rules and was just trying it on. Still ...
That night Danny comes to me and says "Hey Patrick, you're good at math. I've got these real mean problems to do. Won't you give me a hand with them?" I am quite flattered to be asked, because only a few of us in the unit are much good at math. I am also relieved that Danny has come down from his prickly "This place ... nobody cares" routine. I sit down, and we spend a good forty minutes in which I feel that I am being pretty helpful.
We finish. Danny says "Thanks, Pat. That was great. That was my punishment for not bringing clean white socks to gym today!"
"Chocolate cigarettes, yes.
Chocolate joints I'm afraid not."