Wilton students keep up with their cooking homework

WILTON — From recipes as simple as biscuits or chocolate chip cookies to more complex fare like fettuccine Alfredo or boeuf bourguignon, some Wilton students are cooking up a storm while they are home from school.

At Middlebrook School, which includes sixth, seventh and eighth grades, one of the classes being taught via distance learning is Family and Consumer Science. Among other lessons, teacher Heather Priest has been creating and sending videos of recipes for her students to try.

She tapes the videos in her home kitchen and garden with the help of her 10-year-old twins.

“I provide recipes and demonstrations and then some sort of short assessment in the form of a game or exit slip that helps me understand if they have grasped the concept,” she said.

“I also offer students synchronous learning through occasional Zoom calls where students can ask questions and help brainstorm new recipes.”

Seventh grader Annabelle Zheng is one of the students taking Priest’s class and when asked whether she preferred cooking or baking, she didn’t hesitate. It’s baking for sure.

She tried the chocolate chip cookie recipe Priest sent and declared it “pretty good.”

Although she’s made cookies before, Annabelle said Priest “explained the creaming method which is used [to mix butter and sugar] and that was helpful.”

One challenge Annabelle is giving serious consideration to is her birthday in two weeks, when she will turn 13. “I might try baking a cake for my own birthday,” she said. She usually blows the candles out on an ice cream cake, but “we’re trying not to go to the store. I’m thinking about it.”

While Maja Driscoll made some of Priest’s biscuits with his mother, he really prefers outside grilling.

“My mom and I usually make cookies and I usually help with dinner, but I love grilling and making hamburgers,” the seventh grader said. He’s felt that way “for a couple of years, ever since I saw my dad make a burger.”

Maja is sorry he couldn’t take Priest’s class in school this quarter, but that hasn’t dampened his culinary curiosity.

“I found a recipe for beef bourguignon,” he said. “It tasted great. We happened to have all the ingredients at home.”

Maja prefers cooking over baking, but grilling is still tops in his book.

“I like the fresh air as opposed to a hot kitchen,” he said.

Priest’s videos inspired Colin Gilmor, who is in eighth grade, to make french fries and chicken piccata.

“The french fries came out pretty good,” he said.

Colin is very enthusiastic about being in the the kitchen.

“I love to cook and bake. I’ve made multiple cakes and desserts,” he said. “I’ve gotten into steak, pasta, pizza — from the raw materials. I literally made the dough for pasta.

Colin’s favorite recipe is fettuccine Alfredo. When asked his favorite dessert he gave it some thought and then described a cake “drenched” in hot fudge he and his mother made for his dad’s birthday.

Colin said he sometimes cooks for his family. “In the past I’ve done it with my dad and a few times by myself. I’m usually the one who’s running it but I need an extra pair of hands.”

With fewer trips to the store and thus fewer ingredients on hand, Colin said he’s been somewhat “hands-off” in the kitchen lately but he has been “making little treats.” One dish he enjoyed that he made with his dad involved tomato pesto over sausages and pasta. “It’s better than it sounds,” he said.

Colin recalled enjoying working in the school garden when he was in sixth grade — planting seeds and harvesting food.

“It feels good to get close to your food,” he said. “You understand what goes into your food. You can appreciate the chefs who create things.”

Colin’s “holy grail” of recipes is a cheesy skillet bread he tasted at a restaurant in Savannah. “One day I hope to find it and cook it. It was so good.”

Colin has apparently taken to heart Priest’s lessons.

“I’ve learned so many new cooking techniques and ways to cook,” he said. “I always stuck to the recipe. She taught me how to branch off from that, how to definitely substitute materials and make good food like egg-free cookies, and a half-brownie-half-cookie.

“Thanks to Mrs. Priest I learned a lot about cooking.”