Bite of Brainfood Blog

The Inside Perspective: Youth Reflections

The youth in our programs are at the heart of what we do at Brainfood. We Brainfood instructors have the privilege to engage with teen participants on a daily basis. Those of you who support us in various ways may have the same privilege of interacting with our amazing young people if you serve as a Weekly Classroom Assistant or attend our community events. However, some of you may not have had the chance to meet our participants, so I decided to dedicate this space to youth voices and give you all an insider's perspective!

This week's blog post features six of our many enthusiastic first-year Kitchen All Stars participants. Each readily shared with me their unique perspective on what brought them to Brainfood in the first place and what motivates them to continue to invest in our program.

Photo of AsiaAsia

Why were you interested in joining Brainfood?

Millet and Resiliency: Community MVPs' First Healthy Cooking Demo of 2014-2015

This weekend felt like Autumn. There was a clean crispness in the air, and all of those majestic DC oaks and elms were lit up with orangey yellows and reds. My neighbors at the community garden spent hours piling up cardboard, organic matter, and garden scraps on their now empty beds so the materials can break down over winter and nourish the soil for fertile growing in the spring. It may sound cliche, but everything about the fall reminds me that life is one neverending cycle; that what’s happening now will come to an end but will have a direct impact on how things shake out the next time around. The actions we take to care for the earth, for each other, and for our community today will set the stage for growth and flourishing in the future. There’s something really hopeful and resilient about it.

Are we really putting black beans in our brownies?

It’s not even 4:00 pm yet and students have begun to arrive.  They’ve gone through their usual routine of signing in, putting bags away, and immediately checking the agenda for the day. All of a sudden, faces turn and questions fly. “Are we really putting black beans in our brownies?” “Do we really have to use vegetables today?”                                                                                                    
I couldn’t helpbut smile. No, none of th e recipes were a shock to me and I personally enjoy each one. But I realized just how nuts the recipes seemed. The confused looks of our Brainfoodians gave me insight to the new challenge they were being presented with. 

Goodbye, Training Wheels: Working Sans Recipes on the Brainfood Signature Sandwich Challenge

Recipes are a big part of cooking. At least for beginners, they’re essential tools that provide instruction necessary to get the desired results. But like training wheels, they become less essential with time. We learn to experiment, rely on past experience, and trust our instincts. The transition from following a recipe step-by-step to cooking without that guidance can be exciting, fun, and yes, even a little bit scary.  Here at Brainfood in Kitchen All Stars, we made that leap this week. We started with a versatile, forgiving, and consistently crowd-pleasing food item that we hoped would minimize the “scary” part of this transition: the sandwich. And though it was a dramatic departure from how we’ve been doing things, I’d say the fun and excitement and fun far outweighed the fear.

A New Season

The seasons have changed. Summer turned into fall, and our Brainfood youth garden has produced the last of its summer crops. Other plants, however, are just beginning to yield in abundance. Kale, spinach, arugula, carrots, mustard greens, and beets—now in season—are ushered in with autumn.

First Days, Again

One of the kickers of being a teacher is that, unlike your students, you often have several first days of class.  I’ve had quite a few “first days” at Brainfood, each with its own charms and pitfalls.  In my rookie year at Brainfood, I bit my lip with nerves and obsessively counted the mixing bowls.  My second year, teaching solo for the first time, I forgot to eat lunch and nearly got drowned out by my own rumbling stomach while explaining our attendance policy.  Third through fifth years got better.  I moved up from a smaller, older kitchen to a larger, brighter one for a few years and watched new students marvel at the expanse of stainless steel countertops when they walked in the door.  Then I taught in an empty Sunday school classroom (i.e., not a kitchen at all), and spent the first day showing my students how to set up portable burners and stack the pint-sized chairs in the corner of the room to give us more space.  And this year, just this Monday, I started first day of Brainfood classes in a completely different way: outside.

Welcome to Brainfood, Ricki!

Hi there! My name is Ricki. I am one of the newest members of the Brainfood team. Part of our mission is to use food as a tool to build life skills. This is exactly what drew me to Brainfood. Food is a universal language that connects people from all backgrounds and walks of life. It is not only essential to us for nourishment but it is also a way to explore cultures and take healthy risks.


Trivia, Treats, and Thai Basil: Brainfood goes to Homegrown DC

Homegrown DC logoWhat do you get when you combine 5 eggplants, 10 lbs of pole beans, a gallon of blanched sweet potato greens, and dozens of Thai basil bunches? We asked ourselves that very question earlier this month, as a mild panic set in: Our after-school cooking programs hadn’t started back up for the year, and we were filling our fridges and freezers to the gills with fresh produce from the Brainfood Youth Garden. What were we going to do with all those extra veggies?! Thanks to the folks at Neighborhood Farm Initiative, City Blossoms, and Common Good City Farm, we found the answer last weekend: Homegrown DC, a “hyper-local” farmers market where community gardens, urban farms, and youth gardens like ours can show off what they’ve grown and celebrate delicious foods originating right here in the District.

End of Summer Harvest & Back to School!

It’s that time of year! Freshly sharpened pencils, crisp empty notebook pages full of possibility, fall activity fairs, and new beginnings. Over at Brainfood, we’ve been busy harvesting lots of produce from the Brainfood Youth Garden and stockpiling it for fall programs. The garden has been producing loads of yummy veggies: pole beans, padron peppers, tomatoes, okra, and most of all, GREENS! We’ve been blanching and freezing collard greens, beet greens, rainbow chard, sweet potato greens, and more, and our students are certainly in for a year filled with lots of recipes featuring hyper-local greens from our Youth Garden right here on K Street!


You know it's a Brainfood summer when...

You know it’s a Brainfood summer when…

1. there's a dance party in the kitchen that involves wigs and sequined sunglasses.

Brainfood grads often have creative streak, and our Box Project class was no exception. After a summer of impromptu singing and some spontaneous kitchen dance routines, we challenged them to channel their talents into a last day music video. Armed with props supplied by Garden Manager Aimee, they created a music video mashup that's still got us laughing.

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