I've been sick all week. So of course, yesterday was the perfect day to teach the cooking class I volunteered to lead at the kids' school. I debated calling in, but I had promised and they really seem to enjoy it. And it was just a cold. So I washed my hands and went to school and led a small group of 4th and 5th graders through the process of making sushi rolls. The biggest challenge of the class was trying to prevent the kids from eating the ingredients while we were cooking.
"So we're going to start with this rice. I steamed i-"
"Can I eat that?"
"Well, no sweetheart, you can't eat it, it's an ingredient - we need it! So we're going to take plain old rice and make sushi rice out of it. We do that by mixing rice vinegar and sugar, like this, and then drizzling it over th-"
"Can I drink that?"
"No, no...can't drink it. It's vinegar, it wouldn-"
"But it's got sugar in it - I like sugar!"
Everyone nodded in agreement, solemnly.
"We are not going to drink it, because it's an ingredient - we're going to use it!" I said with a big fake smile. "So, we pour the mixture over the rice and then we toss it like-"
"Can I do that?"
"Well of course you can, here you go!" and tossing commenced. Enthusiastic tossing. Rice was flying everywhere. I tried to wipe some off the table but one of the kids dove on top of it, covering it defensively.
"I WANT TO EAT THAT!"
"Um, it's dirty."
"I DON'T CARE. I WANT IT."
I casually continued to sweep it off the table into the trash. "I think we should just focus on the cooking. OKAY I think we're done mixing it, thanks so much!" There was about a cup of rice thrown across the table, and kids were descending on it like they hadn't seen food in a week.
"So then we need to take the thinly sliced vegetables that you boys did such a gr-"
"CAN I EAT THAT?"
"What? What do you want to e-"
"The veggies. CAN I EAT THEM."
"Well, no. We need to put them in the sushi! Alright everyone." I said brightly. "We are ready to roll. So roll from the bottom up, and then when you are done, get your finger wet and run it along the edge of the sheet of nori to seal it."
One kid knocked an entire cup of water across the table, leaving a good bit of their prep work in a puddle, and rendering it inedible - or at least incredibly unappetizing. I tossed it out while the kids looked on, unfazed. Another student just went ahead and poured the water from his cupped hand directly onto the sushi rather than wetting his fingers - I decided to just go ahead and serve it anyway. I was grimly slicing whatever made it into a roll, and throwing the excess veggies into the compost.
"Where's the ginger?" "Can we eat it yet?" "How many pieces can we have?" "Don't throw that away!" "I need soy sauce!" "Is there wasabi?"
"ALRIGHT!" I was getting tense, my shoulders clamped up firmly between my ears. "Listen. You four split these two rolls. You four split THESE two rolls. The rest is for the other kids when they get here."
"Awwww. That's not very much!" "Where's the ginger?" "Where's the soy sauce?"
"Max!" I barked. "Please get the sauce and the ginger, sweetheart. Thank you so much." I was now outright glaring at these kids. I had spent my own money buying the ingredients, and left work early to come teach the class, and not a single person had said "Thank you." or even "This is tasty." They were bitching about their portion, and the condiments, and fighting over the plate of soy sauce, soaking up as much sauce into their rice as they could before reluctantly letting someone else stick their piece in and repeat the process.
The other kids were let out of their classes and came running at me en masse. Soon I was surrounded by 30 students, teachers and now suddenly parents were approaching.... I lowered my head and focused on my slicing.
"Can I have a piece?" "How many pieces can I have?" "Can my auntie have some?" "Can I bring a piece home to my mother?" "Is there soy sauce?" "Is there more?" "He had an extra piece, can I have an extra piece?"
And while my gut instinct was to run screaming from the room and tear off in a cloud of dust, I stayed. And smiled. And cleaned.
And next week, we're making liver. Let's see them fight over that, shall we?
14 hours ago