Chakra Discussions

Cooking adventures in the classroom

by Caru das

Posted November 4, 2003

[Caru das explains vegetarian cooking to Utah students.]

Mountain View High School (Orem, Utah) is one of seven in the Utah Valley. Rod Jackman teaches at all these high schools simultaneously through a closed-circuit video feed. Kids in other classrooms throughout the valley see everything on several video monitors, and have their own microphones so they can ask questions from any site.

Rod is rated as the number one teacher in Utah and is listed every year among the top ten teachers nationwide in Who's Who of Teachers. I've known him for about six years, since he bought a Mercedes from the temple which had been donated by an Indian member, Dinesh Patel. Rod comes to many of our festivals and loves the food, although he is a committed meat-eater.

I have lectured in his adult education classes but never before on the high school level. Below is an account of my recent experiences in his classroom.

The three classes at Mountain View High School today (Thursday, Oct. 30) are not for adult education, as I had thought. The last time I did classes with Rod Jackman out of the Utah Valley State College media center, it was for adults as a video fed out to other schools for evening classes.

This is much bigger. The three classes I teach today are regular daytime classes with 30 to 40 students from Mountain View High in each class. Simultaneously, each class was transmitted via closed-circuit video to another six high schools. That makes approximately 250 students per class and three classes means more than 750 students saw the classes.

After the first class, we went to the principal's office where they gave him a credit card of the Alpine School District, no questions asked. We went shopping to Macey's in his Mercedes.

The classes are on health and nutrition, stress management and meditation, so Rod will have nothing less than for me to cook a meal while the class is going on. At Macey's we pick up spices, potatoes, cauliflower, frozen mixed vegetables, butter, cherry pie filling, semolina, some chilis, and all the fixings for a salad with lemon tarragon dressing.

When we return to the classroom, Rod and his facilitator, Karmel, produce two portable camp stoves, a couple of woks, knives, spatulas, etc. -- simple, but adequate.

The next class is convening. There are 40 students present at Mountain View (with as many as another 250 looking on from Orem High, Pleasant Grove High, Lehi High, Timpview, Lone Peak, etc.) and the class is an hour and a half long.

Rod introduces me as the greatest spiritual leader since Mahatma Gandhi, I put on the apron (unfortunately, by this time I already have several grease spots on the nice kurta -- Vaibhavi, my wife, is going to be very upset) and I enter the most incredible zone of -- at one and the same time -- giving a cooking class, spicing the curry, stirring it, and boiling sweetened water for the cherry hallava, sautéing the semolina grains in butter, and discoursing on vegetarianism and stress management.

With so many irons in the fire, I lose my train of thought a few times, but the students remind me of what I was saying and, believe it or not, we coherently move right along. Soon the whole classroom is filling up with the delicious smells of a vegetable curry and cherry halavah.

There is enough for everyone to get a decent portion of each. Everybody at the other schools are complaining that only the Mountain View kids are getting to eat!

We had forgotten to pick up sugar and the pie filling was not enough to fully sweeten the halavah, so that was a little grim, but the curry and salad are a big hit.

After this class we go out again and, this time, remember the sugar. By this third class, I am getting the drift of things and the class, cooking, curry, halavah, students' questions, and my presentation are all very good.

By this time the students at the other high schools want to try the food so badly they jump into cars, drive over to Mountain View, come in the door, and line up with plates. The halavah goes over very well (I had already sweetened it with enough sugar, then Rod dumped the rest of the packet in -- guess he wanted to make doubly sure it was sweet enough this time and, believe me, it was).

When you can make this delicious meal for 40 people in 20 minutes in a classroom while giving a class, the kids are realizing how easy this is. Rod suggests this is a good way to impress your family or girlfriend, I say we have the Higher Taste cookbook here at the discounted price of $2.00. Within moments I've sold 20 copies of the cookbook, two soft Bhagavad-gitas at $5.00 each and two sets of chanting beads at $8.00.

The kids settle down after eating while Rod himself (having watched me do it twice and being a good cook anyway) throws some more potatoes and cauliflower into the wok to make up another batch for kids still coming in.

Later, as I have brought 30 sets of chanting beads and the class is partially on meditation and stress relief, I take the kids through chanting a third of a round in unison. The lights are dimmed and I could feel everybody relaxing and enjoying the peace of the chanting. The class ended with Rod putting on the George Harrison recording of "My Sweet Lord" and everybody listening to it in the semi-dark.

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