A dozen kids clad in white aprons stood near the Haderlie Farms booth at the Jackson Hole People’s Market, ready for a shopping spree.
But first, Slow Food in the Tetons board President Ian McGregor asked if any of the kids knew how sausage was made.
“Pigs!” yelled 7-year-old Ellery Preheim.
McGregor explained the process of grinding and stuffing the meat into intestines to make the onion and garlic sausage that the group was about to buy.
Most of the cooks at the Slow Food Kids Cooking Camp shrieked, others embraced the new knowledge.
“I’ve got a bag of intestines,” Gavin Chambers, 10, said proudly as he held up a package of sausage.
The group wound its way to the pavilion in Phil Baux Park, where cutting boards and hot plates were set up for the kids to make a skillet dinner out of their farm-fresh foods. For eight weeks the group of 8- to 12-year-olds will learn their way around this mobile kitchen.
In addition to sausage, the group picked up rainbow chard and turnips from Cosmic Apple Gardens, goat cheese from Winter Winds Farm, pickles from Roots Kitchen and Cannery, and other veggies.
“I hope it tastes good and that we didn’t ruin it,” Olivia Chambers, 8, said as she sauteed veggies. “I know how hard it is to cook now.”
There are no recipes in this class, McGregor said.
“The idea here is that we’re going to do it on the fly,” he said. “We’re going to see what ingredients are out there.”
Each week features a basic dish — like rice bowls, skillets, dumplings or stir fry — but because of the rotating offerings at the market the group has to decide what ingredients to use while browsing the market.
“I don’t know what’s at the market, and they don’t know either,” McGregor said. “We show up and we figure it out. We’re really flexible with the ingredient list. You can make anything with these dishes, but it’s important to know the process.”
Slow Food has been hosting afterschool cooking classes for a few years with increasing popularity.
“But the school year doesn’t coincide with the growing year,” McGregor said. “Our whole thing is not just connecting them to cooking skills but to what efforts the farmers put in to bring food to our tables.”
Thus the summer iteration of the kids cooking class was born, and like the school-year version the students do 90 percent of the work.
“So many cooking classes I’ve been a part of, the kids go and they chop one ingredient then they watch for the rest of it,” McGregor said. “The whole principle of my classes is having kids do the whole thing.”
That means the culinary students learn knife skills, good cleaning habits, how to shop for produce and exchange money for goods and, most importantly, how to cook.
McGregor said he hopes his students will be able to make a nice meal with whatever they have at home rather than following a strict recipe.
“I want them to be more comfortable shopping for things and knowing what they’re looking for and knowing how to turn it into something to eat,” he said.
The perfect example of success happened last winter, McGregor said, when one of his culinary students was at home with his siblings while his parents were stuck in Moran because of closed roads.
The 8-year-old cooked dinner from what was in the fridge for his younger siblings. His parents were able to return home the next day.
“That’s what I want them to take away from it,” McGregor said. “Learning the confidence to say, ‘Well, I’ll do it.’”
Gavin may already be on his way to doing just that.
“Let’s try making barbecue chicken,” he said to his 8-year-old bother, Parker. “Or steak.”