Fort Drum youths are learning to slice, dice and sauté during monthly cooking classes at the Youth Center. In observance of Native American Heritage Month, Youth Center staff planned classes that not only teach cooking skills, but also about American Indian culture.
On Friday, eight youths learned to prepare a "Cherokee casserole," which was made with mushrooms, tomatoes, rice and beef.
Alexander Pledger, child and youth program assistant, said he has been teaching cooking classes at the Youth Center for about a year and a half. The classes, which are held twice a week, teach youths how to prepare easy meals. However, Pledger added that he also uses observance months as an opportunity to reinforce cultural awareness.
“We have a variety of recipes on the schedule, but we do plan for cultural observances too,” Pledger said. “It teaches them about different cultures and what was eaten during different time periods.”
Kathy Belles, CYPA, assists Pledger in finding different recipes for the classes. She said she looks for recipes that are not only simple, but authentic.
“It teaches them about the different cultures, not just in the U.S., but around the world,” Belles said. “Kids learn techniques that they can use at home, but it also gives them a sense of responsibility.”
Those who wish to participate in the classes must be Youth Center members, and they must complete a cooking basics class, Pledger explained.
“The basic class is four sessions long and covers topics like sanitation, kitchen safety, how to read recipes and how to clean up afterward," he said. "These are life skills, but we also teach them how to make easy meals.”
Other meals the class has learned to prepare this year include Super Bowl finger foods, chicken biscuit cups and banana lumpia.
Amber Rist, 15, said she has been to all of the cooking classes, and she enjoys participating with her friends.
“I like eating the food too," she said. "My parents like that I can cook. I get to make dinner at home sometimes.”
Amiere Bell, 15, said he has participated in almost all of the cooking classes the Youth Center has offered.
“The classes teach responsibility, and I learn how to cook,” he said. “I know that when I get older, I will be able to cook for my family.”
While he enjoys all of the classes, Bell said he enjoys the recipes they learn during observance months the most.
“I like learning about different cultures and the foods they ate,” he said.
For more information, call 772-6719.