About cooking: You can eat your mistakes

@DMGately at Nathan’s Famous 4th of July.

It was the Fourth of July.   I was doing what I love doing in the summertime, using my barbeque smoker to make pulled pork sliders for dinner. I woke up at 4:15am to get it started so that we could have dinner in early afternoon.

You’ve gotta get up early in the morning if you’re going to make great food (I went back to sleep for a couple of hours once I got it going).

At some point in the afternoon, my stepson, who was in the pool with his girlfriend, asked me, “Don, how’d you learn how to cook?” I thought about it and I replied it’s really something I’ve been teaching myself for the past 10 years. I just decided I wanted to learn to cook. My journey as a cook has not been a straight line.  Whenever I have time, I cook.   And it brings me great joy.

“But how’d you do it?” he asked.

[/caption]I’d never really thought to explain it but I guess I read many cookbooks, watch food television, read articles in magazines and newspapers, talk about food with anybody who will discuss it with me, and then I just jump in there and try to cook things. Often I cook by myself but I also love to prepare a meal together with my wife.

The best part of cooking is, when you make mistakes, you get to eat your failures.

When you’re learning to cook, at the end of the process,  no matter what, you are eating.

Eating!  What’s better than that!

That got me thinking about education and school.

Like school, cooking is about something that is elemental to the human condition.  

We cook so we can eat.

We go to school so that we can learn.

That’s it, learning.  School is about learning.  

When I cook…

Nobody gives me a grade

If I make a mistake I can either eat it or throw it away and start over again

When I make a meal, I can always make it again, better than the last time

I’m  never forced to cook in the kitchen with my head down by myself not talking to anyone. Usually when I cook I’m doing it with my wife, we are talking, catching up, listening to music, maybe even enjoying a glass of wine.

I love the feedback I get about my cooking, good or bad,  “Don, I like your coleslaw with vinegar more than mayonnaise. Don, this is too spicy, this needs more salt.  This is so good, where do I get the recipe?”

Learning to cook is all about learning from mistakes but enjoying the process and eating the results. The thing I love most about cooking is the infinite nature of food. I will never stop learning because the universe of food and cooking is seemingly endless. There is so much food to enjoy and

We made this spaghetti with clam sauce.

 so many ways to prepare it. Enjoying food connects you to other people and other cultures in a way that is singularly rewarding.

I do not wish to mislead… I am NOT an awesome cook.  Far from it.  Forced to give myself a percentage grade (emphasis on forced, I am strenuously opposed to grading practices that use “averages”), I would grade myself an 83% (whatever that means).  But I always experience success when I cook, I never give up, I always learn something new, and I always love it!

Somewhere along the way, instead of being about learning, school often becomes a matter of success or failure. Kids are led through a highly prescribed path.  They often engage with content in isolation, not collaborating with others. The system cultivates an avoidance of failure because:  failure equals bad grades  – equals angry parents –  equals negative life prospects; or at least that’s what kids are led to believe.

I don’t have the solution to this dilemma but the similarities and differences between cooking and school has me thinking:

 In schools, how can we create conditions in which kids are NOT afraid to fail.  How can we make everything we do in school as joyful, as exploratory, and as fulfilling as cooking and eating.    It’s our responsibility as educators to make it that way!

About dfgately

Middle School Principal Jericho, NY
This entry was posted in Best Practice, Educational Focus, Leadership, Reflections, Teaching/Learning, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to About cooking: You can eat your mistakes

  1. Danielle Mammolito says:

    Love reading your blogs! Great job of weaving a personal story into the topic. I was just having this discussion with my Molloy students- can’t wait to share!

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