Cooking, learning

So, new year is here. Back to this blog, then. Well, the plan was to come back to it after summer holidays but the start of the school year was a nightmare for me, then I had plenty of things to do, the family…. You know how this works. Anyway, the important thing is the blog is back to life. Hope you don’t mind, haha.

And now, the intro. The point is I was cooking dinner last 31st. Not much and not for many, of course, but I was cooking and then I realised two things: I like cooking. I can cook. So I started thinking about it. 

Not exactly me, nor my kitchen. Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash

The situation is: some background music (well, according to my wife the volume is not what you’d call background), a cold beer and all the ingredients on the kitchen counter, along with pans and knives and such. A lovely atmosphere to work.

Then, the recipe. I decided to make Kalpudding, a Sweddish meat and cabbage pie, which ended up being delicious, by the way. I saw the recipe on TV (cooking channel) and then found it on the internet to have a close look at it and make the dish.

Then, the creativity. As I didn have a couple of the ingredients, and my pans were not big enough to cook the cabbage as instructed, I made a couple of changes to the original recipe which, according to my family, didn’t spoil the plate at all.

Then, the reward. We sat down to eat, just the five of us (the virus, mind you) and had a lovely time together. I was praised as a chef and, I’d like to think, as a father and husband so I celebrated with another beer for a combo reward: sweet words and bitter drink.

After dinner, I put the plates and such in the dishwasher while I reflected on some small changes I would be making the next time I prepare Kalpudding (a bit more soy sauce for sure and maybe some more cream for the sauce).

In all, a nice, cosy tasty experience for me and my family. And so simple!

And now, the gist. How come that such a clumsy man as myself is able to cook? How come that, being as inpatient as they come, I am able to wait for things to boil or bake? How did I learn how to cook? Why do I like it? Oh, gosh! The key is that I learnt well. Let ‘s see.

My first steps into cooking was in my mother’s kitchen. She is a lovely cook and wanted to teach me the basics of cooking to help me become a nice man (the idea of sharing responsibilities at home, egalitarianism and such, you know). My mum is not only a good cook but also a good teacher.She let me cut vegetables in spite of being slow (and dangerous if you think about it), she let me stir food (my favourite) and when I was tired I could just have a break and do something different.

Again, not me. Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash

So I had practical useful lessons, which I understood were important for my future in a lovely atmosphere where things were easy and I started doing small tasks and then doing more complex one and I could just go and rest if I was tired. Personalised learning, in other words.

I was twelve more or less when I started cooking with my mum. I didn’t like TV but I discovered a cooking show which I fell in love with. The host was (is, it is on air yet!) Karlos Arguiñano, a famous chef who offered simple, homemade, tasty recipes for the family. I learnt a lot with him. As my mum, he didn’t speak about the history of cooking or the greatest chefs but about how to cut an onion or how to bake a cheesecake. He gave useful advice on different topics and I tried to remember them for next time.

That was my first use of technology for learning. Yes, TV is also technology.

Then I grew up, I moved from mum’s kitchen to mine and I started cooking for my wife and after a few years for my children too. And I still like it.

For me, cooking is quite natural. I am able to cook many different recipes and some variations of each, when I do not have a given ingredient I am able to make changes and use something different, when I find a problem (say, something is too  salty) I have some strategies to solve it. I am a competent cook.

Of course, I use technology a lot. I find recipes on the Internet and my Google Nest for the shopping list and for countdowns (time is important, mind you). My use of technology is, always, directed by my goals, in such a way that when I do not need support (eggs and bacon) I don’t use it. 

Now comes the assessment. My kids and wife (adorable people) are quite fast saying this is a bit raw or overcooked, or salty or weird but they also praise me when things are OK. I have learnt to see that feedback as a sign of love, both when it is positive and when it is not. They are people I love and they love me so, how can I see their opinions differently?

Something important here: I make mistakes. Sometimes they are big and sometimes small. But I tend to find things to improve. And, after lunch or dinner, I think OK next time I will put some rosemary here before putting that in the oven, as I always try to improve. My family’s feedback is always a starting point.

And yes, I try to improve because I find it all rewarding. Feeding my family is a reward in itself, but doing it well is some sort of privilege I enjoy. When they say they like what’s on their plates I am basically happy. And that is beautiful.

Let’s recap:

I learnt how to cook in a lovely atmosphere, through personalised practical lessons. I started using tech to learn from the very first moment to support my learning. Then, I had the chance to develop my skills on my own, using, again, technology as support (a different technology, of course). At home, I cook in a lovely atmosphere (not always with a beer but always with some music) and now I am able to think creatively and solve problems. I am also able to reflect on my work and find improvement areas. I find the whole process rewarding and, at the same time, I am helping my family.

My question is: why don’t we develop a similar learning process at schools? I know it is not the same (one guys vs 25) but there are many things we can emulate at schools. We can offer practical learning opportunities, we can try to make the learning environment nice (our classroom, our online platform, our video calls…), we can try and respect different learning rhythms and we can use technology to help ourselves and our students. We can also try to implement reflection and metacognition as part of the learning process. We can, finally, make our students see the reward of each learning process for them and for their community.

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