Tara Homes for Children, NGO for street children in Delhi, India

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Top Chef Masters at TARA Tots

Eleonora, culinary journalist and volunteer at TARA is our invited writer today.

It’s a Monday afternoon at TARA Tots.
When I arrive, the atmosphere is as usual: the children are all busy. They are playing, studying; some are helping to fold the clothes from today’s laundry.

Valérie comes every Monday at 3pm. She is very much awaited, with her bags full of ingredients, unknown tools, perfumes and surprises. Her arrival spreads a wave of excitation among the children and I, simple spectator, am impressed by her calm, her smile and her patience.
« What are we making today ? »These are the words by which the children welcome Valérie, each time she comes.
She started her cooking activity last April, with the littlies of the TARA family. She wanted to conduct an activity which would both please the kids and be recreational and educational.
She says: « Some do the right thing from the beginning. Others take longer. Others are voluntary and even bold when they have to cut ingredients, while some fear to use the knife ».

The children participate in the activity five by five. They always start by washing their hands, then wear their aprons. After that, they are ready to discover the recipe of the day. They follow Valérie’s instructions, which help them develop their skills: cut, crush, spread, cut with cookie cutters, etc… They develop their sense of feel through textures (sticky, grainy…) and their taste (sour like lemons, sugary like bananas). Once the activity is over, they help cleaning the table for the next group, in accordance with the good hygiene habits taught in TARA.
Valérie also tries to teach them that even if this activity is entertaining and pleasant, we should never waste food and that the final result, the taste itself, depends on the dosage of ingredients and on the proper way to mix them.

Valérie : « During the first sessions, when I was sharing the « left-overs » (extra biscuits or fruits), I was very surprised to see that they were pouncing on it and swallowed large mouthfuls. As if it could have been taken back from them. Now they are more balanced. »

Behind my camera’s lens, I watch them work, I discover the strengthened relationship, after 7 months of work together, between her and the children. The task is serious, calm and peaceful; the laughs, the disruptions of some of them, the quiet reminders and the fingers in the dough, greedily sucked in the end…

“Since April, I have been able to note several changes. Without attributing them solely to this activity, I see that some have made huge progress in their ability to do the manipulations asked. I show them how to handle the knife to cut, how to use the fork to crush… The nannies who used to help the smallest children in the beginning do not need to intervene anymore!”, says Valérie.
She tells me that the main difficulty to conduct her activity is that she cannot use the kitchen. The children are not allowed to enter the kitchen, so she has to choose recipes which do not necessitate oven or gas and it necessitates a constant effort to be creative.

The best chefs’ recipes are always jealously guarded but Valérie agreed to disclose two amusing anecdotes:
- « When I come and don’t say what we are going to prepare, there is the usual question: what are we making today? With their singing way to ask it. Then, they look at what I brought to guess the day’s recipe. I take four groups of five children, one after the other. One session was about preparing a cream out of fudge and crushed nuts, then spreading this cream on biscuits, as for a sandwich. The first group prepared this ‘seriously’. But I had overestimated the quantity of cream for the biscuits and everyone had a little leftover in their plates. I allowed them to eat this little extra (the size of a tea spoon) immediately. The news spread fast. The following children spread less and less cream, and left more and more in their plates. The last biscuits had a very thin layer of cream! »

- « My biggest surprise. For Diwali, I had them make almond paste to fill dry fruits: mix almond powder, sugar and a little drop of water to agglomerate everything.
And it is the little Anita, one of the youngest, immediately did the right thing, as if she had been doing this all her life! She barely soiled her fingertip, whereas all the others had their full hands greasy! »

TARA is extremely grateful to its volunteers for their daily work with the children. We will never thank you enough for your help and your contribution to the children’s intellectual and emotional development, which allows them to flourish and prepares them to become aware citizens and grasp the world with confidence, dignity and discernment.
Dinesh, Valérie, Fayyum and Khushboo

No comments: