Saturday, September 29, 2012

Taste Testing

Full disclosure: I totally copied this lesson from the most recent issue of ChopChop Magazine.

Friday afternoon Su boiled up a big mess of potatoes and I shook small amounts of various herbs and spices into a bunch of small bowls. I also put out a few fresh herbs side by side with the dried ones.

Isn't that an enticing assortment? 
My quick lesson was that seasonings come from all parts of plants including bark (hello there, cinnamon stick) and roots (howya doin', ginger?), both of which I brought in as visuals. I also brought in some bay leaves on a bay leaf branch, which I only have because a family member went to Lebanon a while back and brought it back for us. And I have to say, until I received that branch, I never thought about how all those dried, whole leaves make their way into the plastic container I keep in my spice rack...

The kids cut up their potatoes and spent about twenty minutes dipping potato chunks into various seasonings, tasting it, and then marking comments on a recording sheet.

Just as described in the ChopChop article, the kids tasted, talked, commented, compared, and generally amazed me with their interest in the flavor of things.

Their written comments ranged from initial reactions, to poetic language, to thoughts about how the seasoning would best be used. One student wrote "Needs to be in something" for about half the items on the list, showing a realization that these flavors are not meant to be tasted solo. Parsley was the surprise winner, if we were having a contest, and thyme got the least positive reviews. I've plucked some of my favorite comments to share with you:

fresh basil:
tastes like candy

dried basil:
not a fan

heaven in my mouth

fresh cilantro: 
use it to brighten my day
way too fresh

dried cilantro: 
not as good as fresh cilantro, but good

no thank you
good for beans and chili
too much of a taste

it's a little bland (good for salad)

kinda tastes like dish soap

put it in my soup
best thing on earth

I think we should try it on sushi
Do people use paprika for color or flavor?

fresh parsley: 
tastes like fresh air
kind of refreshing/energizing
tastes like sweet grass

no description

Later this year as we study world geography, we'll return to spices and herbs and use them, as well as grains, as a way to explore regions of the world. In the meantime, I hope Friday's experience will get kids digging around in the spice racks at home, improving the flavors of the food they and their parents are preparing.

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