Opinion
Education Opinion

Cooking New Orleans Style

By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — October 12, 2007 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Remember these words from the hit song in the early 1980s recorded by the Pointer Sisters?

I’m so excited
And I just can’t hide it.
I’m about to lose control
And I think I like it.

I’m so excited
And I just can’t hide it.
And I know, I know, I know, I know
I know I want you. I want you.

Well, that’s how I am feeling this evening. The “I want you” that I’m singing about is a new kitchen for our charter school. I love cooking and I love good food, especially New Orleans favorites like Red Beans and Rice, Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Bread Pudding. Unfortunately, we can’t serve traditional dishes like this at our school because we don’t have adequate kitchen equipment yet. All of the school’s equipment was ruined by flood waters. The “warming kitchen” that we’ve been using is woefully inadequate.

Our lunches are cooked at a neighboring school and brought in to be served in a beat up, borrowed serving steamer. We don’t have a stove (a requirement for real Gumbo preparations) and we don’t have ovens large enough to bake our own bread. We have a small freezer that can hold one day’s frozen goods. We have warmers so we can serve things like pizza and hot sandwiches. We need to buy a milk cooler, refrigerator, and steamer among other things. The cafeteria manager is a very creative chef who has figured out how to serve an abbreviated menu to our students. She made delicious “baked” red beans one day. But even pizza ceases to interest children, if they get it too many times in a month.

Today, I got a message from the Principal that our food service vendor had visited the school. She went in this morning to ask us to purchase the proper equipment for our kitchen to ensure that she can deliver meals that are safe. The vendor said there is a high risk serving food that cannot stay at a safe temperature. The lack of equipment limits the foods she can serve safely for our children’s breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks. Also, she wants to be sure we can meet codes from the health department. Last year, the school didn’t even have a serving steamer. Students were served the infamous frozen sandwiches which were distributed across folding tables covered with vinyl tablecloths.

I decided to make the kitchen renovation a top priority. My request for attention went straight through the chain of command all the way to the top. The first response came from Paul Pastorek, Louisiana’s State Superintendent of Schools. I was impressed, shocked, and delighted to hear from Paul within minutes of my appeal for attention. His email was followed by a response from Karen, who is in charge of RSD kitchen equipment purchases. She gave me specific “short steps” that we can take to purchase our equipment and get our kitchen up and running. I’m so excited that I want to stop typing for a minute and sing along with the Pointer Sisters . . . . . . Done.

Here’s a coincidence in this story, although I don’t believe in coincidences. Up until last week, my family had been living in our house without the benefits of a functioning kitchen. Hurricane Katrina’s flooding poured 4 ½ feet of muddy salt water into our house and soaked it for two weeks in 2005. We were able to move back home in October of 2006 after living for three months in Baton Rouge, LA and 10 months in a rental home in the lower garden district of New Orleans.

Before moving back into our house, we purchased all new stainless steel appliances (refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, washer, and dryer). However, the electrical work was not finished in the kitchen until last week. I’ve been cooking our meals on a two-burner hot plate, a tabletop grill, a toaster oven and a microwave. I baked last Thanksgiving’s turkey in an electric roaster and I have lots of other electric equipment (skillet, waffle iron, mixer, George Foreman grill, etc.). I even cooked Gumbo on the hot plate. How hard can it be? Very hard. I don’t recommend it.

Even though all of the electrical appliances are new, there are some things that can’t be cooked correctly unless you use a seasoned cast iron skillet. A cast iron skillet requires the even heat distribution of a real stove. I hugged the startled electrician when I heard the “Beeeep” of my electric stove’s clock for the first time. Now I’m cooking in style! We’ve had Chicken and Dumplings, Smothered Okra and Shrimp Stew, and Southern Fried Catfish in the last two weeks. Last night, I baked a cake in the oven for the first time. It came out perfectly.

I can’t wait for the first day I get a whiff of the aroma of homemade bread wafting from our school’s kitchen. I’m so excited.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP