Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Apple Crisp and the Schoolwide Holiday Luncheon

Our school had a Holiday Luncheon on Wednesday. When I first started working at the school, thirteen years ago, this was an annual event taking place on the Wednesday a week and a half before Thanksgiving. Senior citizens and grandparents were invited, tablecloths were put on the long tables in the lunchroom, parents roasted turkeys and brought in homemade pies. Over the years our school has gotten away from this traditional meal for a variety of reasons, but this fall our amazing cook, Emily, resurrected the event.

Last week a note went out asking teachers if they'd be willing to bake pies (for the grownups) or apple crisp (for the kids). “How about my class makes the apple crisp instead?” I asked. So Tuesday afternoon, after reading the recipe over together, a small group of students went down to the kitchen with Emily to measure and mix the crumble topping.

Meanwhile I supervised the rest of the group using five apple peeler/corer contraptions to prep a monster-sized box of apples. I don't know how much the box weighed but I'm going to estimate at least forty pounds, having carried it from the kitchen to my classroom. (Actually I carried two equally-heavy boxes to my room but one was enough to fill the three pans of apple crisp. I let a proud sixth grader carry the box back when we cleaned up. Having carried them one way I had nothing to prove.)

If you've never used one of these apple peelers, let me tell you that the only thing better than peeling a huge amount of apples with one is letting a group of ten to twelve year olds peel the apples for you!

Everyone loves turning that crank and seeing it turn a whole, red apple into a spiral of juicy apple flesh. Kids took turns with the five peelers and cut the spirals into smaller pieces while I danced around, trying to figure out how to contain the massive amounts of compost we were creating.

One of the peelers wasn't working right, digging in and gouging too much apple flesh off each apple. We were making enough progress that I was ready to take it out of commission and continue on with four peelers but one ingenious student made it his mission to figure out the adjustments and fix the cranky machine. He spent about half an hour trying out various settings, comparing his machine to one of the others, and tweaking settings with a pair of pliers I had on a back shelf. I love that this was the kind of afternoon where he was able to pursue his interest, use his skills in a meaningful way, and do some real-life problem solving.

Today was the meal itself. The staff pitched in to serve lunch to all the students plus many senior members of the community, parents and grandparents, and adults who mentor individual students. The crisp was well received and my students along with the rest of the fifth and sixth graders, enjoyed serving guests at two of the seatings and then being served by their teachers at the third seating.

I intended to include photos from the luncheon, but then realized that I don't have permission from the many people who attended to publish their images on the internet. Sorry! You'll have to use your imaginations.

This recipe was a departure from the regional United States cooking of the past six weeks or so. This month has been so jam packed with extra events and activities that we've barely had any class time to study the Southwest yet. As a result, we are going to spend the rest of our time until vacation working on the Southwestern states and then have a class celebration the last day before vacation. I am planning a three course feast to celebrate Southwestern foods. We'll cook in the morning and eat in the afternoon. Stay tuned!

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