Volunteer, Nick Sheridan, Reflects on Days of Taste
We can’t tell you enough how fulfilling it is to stand alongside kids on their journey to discovering food, flavors, and healthy eating habits. But we know someone who does a great job describing the rewards of food education. Nick Sheridan, a volunteer with the Days of Taste program since 2003, is in the process of writing a memoir for his family. He was kind enough to share with us a sneak preview of the transcript that focuses on his time with the program.
“I had an unusual dinner with friends at a school in Baltimore County: on each of our appetizer plates were four miniature cups with powders in them; three white and one brown. Beside them were popsicle sticks and a glass of water.
This was my introduction to Days of Taste, a program initiated by Julia Child, and Robert Mondavi of Mondavi Wines, to reclaim our children’s tastebuds, which were being lost to over-salted and over-sugared fast foods. We were instructed to dip the popsicles in water and then into one of the powders, taste and then describe the result: how intense? What did it remind us of? Try not to use qualitative words like good, bad, yucky, delicious.
The powders were the essence of the four taste sensations: sweet, sour, bitter and salty, and were the basis of a food and nutrition program that was being rolled out in the Baltimore area if enough volunteers could be found. The dinner continued with four foods that headlined one of these ingredients, a third course that coupled two of the elements, followed by an entrée plate that balanced all four.
I was sold, and became a volunteer chef at schools in my neighborhood and all over Baltimore City, preparing foods the night before and arriving at the school early, hauling big boxes of whisks and paper-ware, sometimes uncertain where I would go and whether I would get enough help to run a good session.
The volunteers and the chef turn up and we carve a little corner out of the classroom to prepare our materials; then it’s showtime. I explain the program to the kids, using humor and questions to engage them. Always, I am looking for the left-out ones, to see if I can plant a seed that may bud and flourish later. When I arrived at a new school, my image was of Winston, who came up to me two years after our visits to his school and told me of the new foods he had dared to try since then, and of the salads he now made with his mother.
Days Of Taste is a nutrition program in the Baltimore area for 4th graders, and I was glad that Winston was starting on the road to good and healthy eating. But what gave me the most joy was that I had given attention and approval to a shy and lonely young boy, and he had repaid me by becoming a more intentional kid, confident that he could make his own food decisions, rather than just following the rules set by his classmates, his family, or TV ads.”
If you have a story to tell about a food experience or time spent interacting with and helping TWK, we’d love to hear it! Reach out to us at email@example.com