On Food, And How to Make It
A Story From Cooking Class…
“It’s not fair!” seven-year-old Ethan cries from the back seat as I reveal the big surprise on this week’s menu. “Robbie (age nine) always gets a treat because he likes soda and I don’t and that’s always the treat.”
Shopping with Robbie and Ethan is always a bit of a great adventure, and they are terrific sports. They’re learning their way around the market, tasting new fruits and vegetables with part of every snack (starfruit! pomelo! cauliflower!), and also figuring out what I can be persuaded to buy – and what I can’t.
“Pleeease can we have these? You said we were going to make soda and I don’t want any but I could have this instead!” Ethan’s attempts at negotiation are both understandable and in that particular pitch of whine that could rival a mosquito. I raise an eyebrow and give my standard line – cool, calm, mildly incredulous.
“That doesn’t look like food.”
At this point, I’ve run the drill with the boys a few times. My standard challenge is this: if you can read every ingredient on the box (for the younger kids), and identify what it is (older kids), it counts as food. Anything else is Not Food (even if it is tasty and okay to eat sometimes!)
Ethan’s not going to be deterred on this one. He flips the package of Hostess Cupcakes over and struggles to read the first ingredient. I continue pushing the cart towards the plain sparkling water. But now it’s Robbie’s turn.
“Sparkling water?! I HATE sparkling water!”
“But you love soda, right?”
“What’s your favorite soda?”
“Probably Mountain Dew.”
I swing the cart over and pull down one of the neon yellow two-liter bottles. I hand it to Robbie. “Go on. What’s the first ingredient?”
It takes him a second, but simultaneous defeat and wonder in his voice is palpable. “Carbonated water.” I ask him to read the rest of the list. He makes it through high-fructose corn syrup, but bails on the rest.
I take the bottle back. “I promised you we’re going to make soda. This sparkling water is just one part, and it’s in every single soda you love.”
At home, we dig out two bags of frozen fruit, and the boys divide them between two pots on the stove. We add water, sugar, and, at my recommendation, some fresh orange juice. The syrups bubble and boil, and I explain:
“The water is escaping, leaving us with pure flavor and sweetness – it’s called reducing. We’ll pour these syrups through a sieve so we leave the pulp behind and don’t have pulpy soda, and then add cold water or sparkling water to finish it.”
We taste the syrups as they reduce, and the boys notice the strengthening blueberry flavor. They decide to stop reducing the syrup before it gets any more bitter. We strain and cool the syrups and add the plain and sparkling water. After the initial disappointment of it not tasting exactly like bottled soda, the boys decide it’s a relatively successful experiment.
“And,” I add. “What are the ingredients?”
“Sugar, water, strawberries, blueberries, orange juice, and sparkling water.”
“Do you know what all those things are?”
“Well, then, I guess we’ve just turned soda into food.”
Real Food Fruit Soda
- 1 lb frozen fruit
- 1-3 tsp sugar, honey or maple syrup, to taste
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup orange juice (optional)
- a bottle of sparkling water
- mint, basil or other herb (optional)
Combine first four ingredients in a pot and bring to a rolling boil over medium heat. Taste the syrup as it reduces, and stop when it tastes just a little too strong for you. Strain syrup and pour into a tall glass while still hot. Bash up the herbs, if using, and add to the glass. Add sparkling water, stir, and chill. Remove herbs before serving.
“Soup’s On: Stirring Up Connections in the Kitchen”
[Photo credit: (cc) Pink Sherbet Photography]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dane writes poems and cooks food in Northampton, MA. When she isn’t engaged in one of her semiannual 30-poems-in-30-days sprints, she teaches people how to feed themselves tasty things at the Julia Poppins School of Cooking. Julia Poppins School of Cooking promotes food literacy through fun, confidence-building, hands-on cooking lessons in the Northampton area.