We spent the month of June teaching a 4-week cooking course on Wednesday mornings in Mariannhill. 24 ladies from nearby the Good News Center attended each week. We could tell that the ladies really enjoyed the things that we taught them because they all showed up on time (or earlier!).
Of course, we didn’t want to only teach cooking to the ladies. What we really intended to do was to invite them into the center which is also the ecclesial hall and introduce them to God’s word and principles through our lessons. They way we wove the lessons from the bible into the cooking lessons was with riddles. Rick wrote and asked three riddles that went along with the lesson. For example, when we introduced the ingredients needed to make french toast he asked, “What is the healthiest type of bread?” The ladies all shouted out their answers,
“Nope!” Rick told them. He opened up his bible to John chapter 6 and read, “Jesus said to them, “’I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’ Jesus is certainly the healthiest kind of bread.” The ladies laughed. The riddles were simple but we tried to make them memorable too.
The lessons were broken into the four daily meals. This is what we taught at the four different sessions:
- How to cook The Perfect Boiled Eggs
- How to Make French toast
- The Queen’s Tea
- Sugar risks
- Always wash your hands before cooking
- Never let the arm of your pot hang from the cooker
- When working with hot food, children must be supervised or told to stay out of the cooking area
- Keep things that can catch fire away from hot stoves and ovens
- Use a thick, dry towel or oven mitt to touch hot pots and pans
- Rick teaching the ladies on the dangers of too much sugar
- How to make the secret KFC chicken recipe
- How to make chicken stock using the discarded bones from your chicken
- How to make butternut soup made with the chicken stock
- How to read labels on a package
- The truth about msg
- Never work with electrical appliances near water
- Do not plug too many appliances into one plug
- Curl your fingers under when chopping with a knife
- The floor in the kitchen must always be clean
- Use separate dishes for raw meat
- Knife do’s & don’t’s
- Common kitchen measurements
- Knife skills
- How to cut an onion
- How to make mince meat sauce
- How to make cheese sauce
- How to cook the perfect pasta
- We shared a lasagna recipe
- We shared a macaroni and cheese recipe
- How to work with ginger & garlic
- How to fold serviettes
- How to set a table
- Always make sure you shut off the oven or stove
- There must be proper lighting in the kitchen
- Wash dishes with water so hot you must use rubber gloves
- Milk scalds very fast. Cook it gently and slowly
- Avoid leaving food that is cooking. If you do have to leave, use a timer to remind you that you have something cooking in the kitchen
- How to make savory scones
- How to make chocolate muffins
- How to make a no-bake cheesecake
- 5 tips for perfect baking
- Simple cake decorating ideas
- We decorated pre-cooked cupcakes and had a cupcake decorating contest
- Volume conversions
At the end of the 4-weeks we handed out certificates.
What worked: We tried something new in advertising for the class. We debated on charging for the class, as the course had been funded through donations, but we wondered if a free course would really seem as enticing as one of value. We canvased the neighborhood and handed out 400 course flyers with a coupon stapled on them. The flyers advertised the full course price as R80 ($8) and the coupon knocked the price down to R10 ($1). On the first day of the lesson all the ladies came with the R10 and the coupon! We think this coupon method contributed to the full attendance of eager ladies each week.
We held a graduation ceremony on the last day with professional looking certificates. The ladies were very pleased to receive a certificate. We have since heard that a few of our students are now employed and we think the certificates contributed to that achievement.
What didn’t work: Because Mariannhill’s cooking facilities are out of the way we had to bring all the kitchen tools and portable cooking appliances to each class. One Wednesday the gas cooktop that we were using was empty so Rick had to track down a new one near the taxi rank in the Mariannhill Township.
We originally planned lessons that would teach the ladies how to cook more nutritious meals for their family while keeping to their small budget. The feedback after the first class was that the ladies rather wanted to learn to cook more expensive meals that they can cook for a future employer. We changed the direction of the course afterwards. By focusing on job skills that could be used as a domestic helper we hear now that some of the ladies have got jobs in homes now! If we had kept with our original idea this course may not have been as fruitful.
We spent every Monday and Tuesday before the Wednesday class testing recipes to find the right one to teach using the cheapest ingredients and simplest method of cooking. Rick designed all the workbook activities using the vocabulary we were going to teach. Sonya put together and printed the workbooks with the recipes, safety tips and homework that we handed out before each lesson.
Once the prep work was done the other volunteers pitched in to teach the class with us. Sam Turner from the UK taught how to make the “Queen’s Tea” (steep for 3 minutes, only 1 sugar, little milk) and Matt Bilello, our resident Italian, taught how to cook the perfect pasta. Yvette VanRooyen shared her simple recipes for muffins and Sylvester Cele from Mariannhill taught how to make a no-bake cheesecake.
Our kids really enjoyed being part of the class too. We think they may have learned some cooking skills as well. They helped hand out the workbooks, sharpen pencils and even demonstrated a few cooking techniques along the way.
The ladies enjoyed the course immensely and asked for it to continue and it did – the classes went on for 6 more weeks including an “advanced course”. If you find yourself in the Durban area in the near future, make sure you bring an extra $1. You just might be lucky enough to sign up for an entertaining 4 week cooking course, teaching you all about the Bible in addition to healthy & nutritious recipes and kitchen skills.
Sonya & Rick Szabo