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While I was teaching foods classes at Central Hardin High School, I had students do a culminating project over the semester. It showcased what they had learned such as measuring ingredients, kitchen sanitation, the proper way to set a table, table manners and actual meal preparation.
In the foods lab there were, and still are, five well equipped kitchens and the 30-something students were divided into kitchen groups. I would work with the entire class in planning the menu and then assigned parts of the menu to kitchen groups. For example, one kitchen group would prepare the turkey, dressing and gravy while another would prepare one of two vegetables. I was always amazed students loved broccoli and most groups decided to prepare Broccoli Casserole.
Another group would volunteer to do the second vegetable and another would do the desserts. The favorite dessert always seemed to be pumpkin pie, with Kentucky pie as a close second.
The second vegetable usually was Hash Brown Casserole after I explained that mashed potatoes for 30 people would take a lot of peeling, boiling and mashing.
“We could have instant,” someone would almost always say, and their teacher gave them the look that meant “no!”
The final group volunteered to make yeast rolls and iced tea.
The groups then chose their recipes and copied them in their notebooks to keep the recipe books clean and so they would have the recipe for some time to come. They would decide who in their kitchen group would be host or hostess. They would design an invitation and deliver it to a teacher who had planning period during the same time they had foods class to be their special guest.
The five lab tables were moved end to end and tablecloths, napkins and silverware were on all tables. Their guests all arrived and were escorted to their kitchen group’s part of the table.
There was a wonderful aroma in the classroom and the groups beamed with pride as they set their food on the buffet table (my cleared desk). Dinner was served buffet style and dessert was served to each group by their host or hostess.
I was always proud of how they completed the lab and cleaned their kitchens and put away leftovers for the next day just as the bell rang for their next class.
But something happened to me I will never forget. On planning day, a small quiet girl came to me and told me she was very nervous about our planned lab. When I asked her why, she lowered her head.
“Well, I have never had a Thanksgiving dinner,” she said.
She said both her parents would work on holidays because they got paid more. She also shared that she usually cooked lunch and dinner for her two younger brothers and that they probably would have hot dogs and pork and beans.
It was then that I rethought what we were doing in class. As much as they all enjoyed the cooking, inviting their guests and eating as a family, there might have been others in class who had similar experiences.
We all need to be thankful for our families and friends as we celebrate Thanksgiving. At the same time, remember the less fortunate, the homeless, those with loved ones overseas and those who are working on Thanksgiving and will not have a lavish turkey dinner.
From myself and my family, have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.
I have some of the recipes from those foods labs. However, you can have mashed potatoes if you want.
Nora Sweat, author of “Mama and Me,” is a native of HardinCounty and a retired home economics/family and consumer science teacher. She can be reached at norasweat@thenews enterprise.com or by mail at 408 W. Dixie Ave., Eliabethtown, KY 42701.
1 sleeve buttery flavored crackers, crumbled
½ stick margarine, melted
1 large package frozen broccoli
Salt, black and red pepper to taste
1 stick margarine, melted
½ pound processed cheese, cubed
Combine crackers and melted ½ stick margarine; set aside. Place frozen broccoli in a greased casserole dish and microwave according to package directions. Season broccoli with salt, pepper and a small amount of red pepper. Combine melted margarine and cheese until mixture is smooth and not greasy. You can use the microwave oven in short increments to melt cheese. Pour over broccoli, and top with the crumbled crackers. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly around edges.
Hash Brown Casserole
1 pound frozen shredded hash browns, thawed
8 ounces sour cream
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons pepper
¼ cup finely chopped onion, optional
1 10 ¾-ounce can cream of chicken soup
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese
1 stick margarine, melted
1 sleeve buttery crackers, crushed
Mix all ingredients except margarine and crackers and spread in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass casserole. Combine crushed crackers and melted margarine. Spread over potato mixture and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
Mrs. Sweat’s Favorite Pumpkin Pie
2 cups pumpkin
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1 unbaked pie crust
Combine the first seven ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35 to 40 minutes.