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Kids in the Kitchen: Cookonomics at Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, taste of the world

Jun 26, 2017 03:06PM ● Published by Kevin

Students can prep such dishes as
mashed potatoes, an introductory
kitchen skill.

Cookies aren’t the healthiest item, but they are a yummy and creative entrée into the kitchen for future cooks.

Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs has long offered culinary classes to children ages 4 to 18 during summer and school holiday breaks. And Cookonomics—with different themes—is a year-round kids program introducing them to something more exotic than cookies, preparing and tasting cultural dishes, transforming fruits and veggies into decorative animals and flowers, for example. The American Classics course spans “New England to Southern comfort, Tex-Mex to Cajun,” says youth education director Alana Nanz.

Regardless of theme, Nanz says the courses are “very popular and usually sell out. The kids love it. Those who are here all summer will try out a variety of things. Some want to try out cooking—maybe they don’t know they like cooking and find out they do,” she adds.

Learning to crack eggs, grate cheese, prepare fruits, measure, mix, blend and set the oven is all good hands-on exposure that helps kids confidently maneuver in the kitchen, skills that may help them develop healthy eating habits—controlling their personal menu and being the masters of their creations. It certainly teaches discipline and introduces a possible career.

And if variety is the spice of life, it’s widely recognized that dietary diversity is more healthful than eating the same things. Eating a medley of healthy foods (mostly fruits and vegetables), in fact, may reduce heart-health and cancer risks, according to studies by the National Institute of Health’s National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Chefs will make crepes, yummy cookie icing and sample dishes from other countries. The most important ingredient in any recipe is fun.

Kalon Lucia Baquero has more than two dozen fruit trees on her Estero property and brings in fresh jackfruit, mango and starfruit for the Cookonomics Tropical Paradise class she teaches. “I talk about how organic and local fruits have been shown to have higher vitamin and health-boosting content than fruits that have been picked while still green, refrigerated and shipped all around,” explains Baquero, a fine artist and seamstress. “I talk about how smart our bodies are, that we are naturally more attracted to good-tasting fruits. The backyard fruits win every time—hands-down!”

Cooking combines creativity, nutrition and science, along with soft skills. While having fun, “they also learn to work with each other—teamwork—making food together,” says Nanz. “They are learning about other countries and eating foods they haven’t tried before.

“The older ones are learning skills for life and can cook for themselves at home.”

Story and photos by Cathy Chestnut, a freelance writer and frequent contributor to TOTI Media.

At a Glance

Cookonomics, afternoons and Saturday mornings, also summer camp, Centers for Performing Arts, Bonita Springs.239-495-8989, artcenterbonita.org

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