This past week was quite an interesting one. With one of our classes needing accommodations for limited mobility, we created a new virtual grocery store tour. We made a mock store by clipping pictures and prices from the circulars that local stores distribute. It took some creativity in order to cover all the bases- bulk section items, frozen and canned foods and cereals- but in the end we had a grocery store we could bring to the class instead of bringing the class to the grocery store! Throughout the shopping trip, our participants argued that most of the prices we had for our items were simply too high and we would be fools for buying them. They even let us in on some secrets on where to get better quality items for less money. Maybe they should have taught the class last week? In another class, we made a frittata. Well, sort of. We had a debate among the volunteers about how exactly a frittata was cooked and, with limited supplies, we ended up making more of a very veggie-heavy scrambled egg dish.
I think these two classes show how important it is to be adaptable in cooking and teaching situations. Throughout the series, the volunteers and I have had to think on our feet when something went wrong. Take for example the time we set out to make the Northwest Apple salad. Though the apples looked fine on the outside, the participants sliced into the apples and found them brown on the inside. Some quick thinking allowed us to identify carrots (an ingredient of the other recipe) as a substitute. Carrots are slightly sweet and colorful with a mild enough flavor to easily replace the disastrously rotten apples we had. I hope that all of our participants learn how to make sensible adaptations when things do not work out the way that they had hoped. Say you go shopping and your recipe calls for green beans but the ones in the store are brown and old at $3.99/lb to boot! What will you do? Buy them anyway? Or, would you look for a substitute like broccoli or frozen green beans? Being flexible allows you to spend less and to choose items that are more healthful. Even though it may seems like an “oops” moment on the part of the volunteers or staff, it can be a great learning experience for all. Recipes are a road map but individual tastes differ and sometimes not all the ingredients needed are available so some personal innovation is necessary. The resulting dish will be your own creation and there is nothing more satisfying than that.