It’s another Monday afternoon and Q, Angel, and I have set up cutting boards and vegetables in the newly renovated basement kitchen of Ward AME church, now ready for our weekly children’s cooking program.
Today we have a peanut theme to accompany a lesson on George Washington Carver. We are making peanut butter, and peanut bars from one of the 105 peanut recipes Carver published in his bulletin to promote the nitrogen-restoring crop among rural growers. Q works with a few kids to add a small amount of salt, honey, and peanut oil, and they watch as the peanuts turn to a familiar store product in the food processor. The rest of us takes turns cutting apples, celery and bananas. After grinding the peanuts and making the dough for the bars, everyone molds their own shapes, and the snakes, suns, and squares go into the oven.
Shalise already knew we’d be cooking with peanuts when we first picked the kids up from the Martha Washington afterschool program a block away, and Q said cryptically, “we’re making something out of a plant that became popular because of a really famous black farmer dude.”
“Oh, peanuts.” She said. “Great, I hate those.” But by the time it comes to eating them she has changed her mind, and is hording the bowl of apples for dipping before Angel nods to her to pass it along, and pay attention to the section of the Carver biography that Preece is reading out loud.
Inventing over 300 products from peanuts— including insulation, antiseptics, and wall board— and teaching rural farmers best growing practices through the mobile Jessup Wagon, Carter embodies the creativity, ingenuity, and connectivity that we admire in urban farmers today!
Angel, the block captain on 43rd street and Ward AME member, partners with us to run this program. Her two sons and nephews are joining today, the older insisting that the younger can read the words on the page, to have us be patient. Angel has been instrumental in setting up the two gardens now next to Ward and across the street, and the kids always respond to her energy, sense of humor, and nurturing guidance in the kitchen and the garden!