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An exercise in taste


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By: Jennifer Kaiser

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” ― Orson Welles

For eight months, my crew has intensely pursued culinary adventures. We snacked on Mexican style marzipan, chili seasoned mangoes and homemade pretzels. We feasted on elk, venison and bear. For lunch, we unleashed Tupperware full of bulgur salad, pesto and roasted chicken. And notoriously end the day in a frozen yogurt haze.

During the previous YO (Youth Outdoors) term, we challenged the youth to a burdock root cooking competition, dared them to eat dried figs and apricots, and sampled Hmong delicacies during our service project. When our second YO term stated four weeks ago, we decided to let our new crew members indulge their senses as well, and the Cookie Monster Challenge of 2013 was born. On the day of the bake-off each crew leader came to work with a homemade batch of cookies, and the youth judged them blindly.

Each week, YO has a different theme, and we organized the cookie challenge as a reward for completing our St. Anthony Main Scavenger Hunt for the Minnesota History Week. As we lead our youth crews around the scenic Mill District of Minneapolis, they had to answer questions such as:

-What was the original function of the Stone Arch Bridge?

-Who owns the Hennepin Island hydroelectric plant?

-What is the Dakota word for ‘falling waters’?  (*Hint: the answers are on the interpretative signs found along the Stone Arch Bridge and the paths along the riverbanks.)

The final destination of the scavenger hunt was the Endless Bridge at the Guthrie Theater. None of our crew members had ever visited the bridge, which overlooks the dam, St. Anthony Main and Minneapolis’ skyline. It provides one of the most inspiring views in the city – an ideal location to taste and ponder the texture, presentation and sweetness of a cookie.

It turns out teenagers are unforgiving critics. My cookies came in fourth place…out of four! I’m not sure exactly where I went wrong, but the activity proved that my relationship with my crew members moves in two directions. They motivate me to become a better person – at the very least, a better baker.