Saturday, December 8, 2012

Potatoes: To Fry or Not To Fry

Definition of irony:
Yesterday I made oven baked french fries with my class. Because it's healthier that way.
In a couple of hours I'm going to shred up a bunch of potatoes, fry them in oil, and feed them to my family.

We've been learning about the cardiovascular system and researching how to keep it healthy. This week (and next week's) cooking projects have been designed with the intention of raising awareness about some of the less healthy habits many of them may have. And of course, providing alternatives.

Friday afternoon we read a mildly revised version of this article about fried foods and oils in our diets. We've been working on strategies for note taking when reading non-fiction text, so this was a perfect opportunity to put those skills into practice.

Next we got to working halving potatoes and cutting them into wedges. Emilyinthekitchen helped amp up our project by getting us sweet potatoes, parsnips and a couple of turnips in addition to the potatoes.

One of the turnips had a gnarly, rotten cavity in the center of it. This, of course, simultaneously sickened and fascinated one of the fifth grade boys. I sent him down to show Emily, thinking it was headed straight for the compost. Of course not! She made them wait while she used her wicked knife skills to cull the decent bits from the turnip and sent the sticks back, ready to be added to the rest of the pile.

As kids finished chopping, one student went around collecting the veggies and a few others worked with Su to coat them in oil, spread them on two pans, and sprinkle them with salt.

We sat down to prepare for our planned reading lesson.  But first, I snuck in a little math! We estimated that Su used about half a cup of canola oil for all the potatoes and their veggie friends. This sounds like an obscene amount of oil, but upon further investigation, it's not too bad. Half a cup of oil is eight tablespoons. A tablespoon of canola is 14 grams of fat. That means our entire recipe used 112 grams of fat. Using our mad estimation skills, we determined this is just under 5 grams of fat per serving. Considering we had just read that a single potato, cut up and deep fried, has 34 grams of fat, this is a significant improvement. We also had read about types of fats, and that deep fried potato was probably fried in a hydrogenated fat -- way less healthy than canola.

While we did our reading lesson, Su dealt with the oven end of things, and soon she was back in the room with a bowl full of oven baked veggies and the lovely, oily aroma that accompanied them. I'm sorry I didn't snap any pictures of us eating, but I am not kidding you when I say that they were polished off in under three minutes. Even the student who couldn't get over the fact that there wouldn't be ketchup  managed to enjoy himself.

Hannukah starts in a couple of hours. I'll be making latkes (fried potato pancakes) for my family to enjoy for dinner. This is a food we eat a handful of times a year. Ironic? Yes. But not entirely. Part of what we discussed yesterday is that eating french fries or other fried foods is okay once in a while. On a regular basis, not so much. Today is our once in a while. My hope is that our project yesterday has provided my students with the realization that on the days it's not once in a while, a yummy alternative is roasting some potatoes instead.

Happy Hannukah!

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