Lily Herman is a senior at Charles O. Dickerson High School. She is also a Girl Scout in the process of achieving her Gold Award. Herman is part of Troop 40591, which is led by Sarah Brainard and Kathleen Pasetty. Her parents are Christine Ibert and Matt Herman. Herman decided to do her Gold Award project on food preparation and kitchen safety.
After narrowing her project focus, Herman had to present her idea virtually to the Girl Scout Council in May 2020. She loves to cook and bake, so her project was an extension of her talents. Herman decided to look into younger students, especially since Home & Career was no longer offered in junior high. Her project advisor was Gail Brisson, the middle school librarian.
Brisson made a list of girls and boys who might be interested in the five-week course. Of those on the list, Leah Washburn, Fina Murtagh, Emma Hughes and Savanna Moe all expressed interest. She didn’t hear from any of the boys. The Girl Scout Council liked their proposed project and made some suggestions for improvement, such as not using all Girl Scouts as participants and having different members from their own troupe to help in each class. Herman also had to keep a log of the progress of their project.
The name of the project is Cooking for Kids and it focuses on safety in the kitchen and food preparation. Brisson was the perfect person to be a project consultant. “Gail was approachable and I had the connection to middle school. She had worked in restaurants in Buffalo and Ithaca, taught at Wegmans, and served at Trumansburg Middle School’s Localvore Club,” Herman explained.
The project consisted of five classes taught on as many Saturdays at the Jacksonville Community United Methodist Church. Lesson 1 focused on kitchen security. In Lesson 2, the girls made chicken noodles, with an emphasis on cooking the chicken thoroughly and avoiding cross-contamination.
The girls were divided into small groups in Lesson 3 and made guacamole, salsa and fries out of baked tortillas in the oven. Lesson 4 focused on baking cupcakes and frosting from scratch, then piping decorations onto each cupcake. Lesson 5 was the final session and turned into a cooking competition where the final dishes were judged on taste, presentation, difficulty and creativity.
On Saturday November 6th, Washburn, Murtagh, Hughes and Moe got together and decided what meal they would cook. One group chose stuffed mussels and a mixed salad while the other girls prepared spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. Everything except the bread was made by hand. Herman oversaw the activity in the kitchen and helped when needed. She also developed the rubric used by the judges. When the meal was ready, Madeline Brainard and Blythe Van Ness came to judge the culinary dishes. After carefully selecting both offers and filling in the rubrics, it was found that the stuffed mussels received 35/40 points, while the spaghetti and meatballs received 32/40 points. Both meals are said to have been delicious. After completing the evaluation, everyone was allowed to eat and taste both dishes.
All four girls made good money from the five-week class. Washburn said, “I’m better at cooking with others now than by myself.”
Fina remarked, “I’ve learned to cook better without measurements and have used things like a pinch and sprinkles instead.”
“I want to cook better every day,” says Moe. “I’ve learned to use a gas stove better, even though I have one at home.”
“I learned to cook with others and to be independent in the kitchen. I also learned how to use a can opener and decorate cupcakes,” Hughes explained. All four middle school girls said their favorite activity was making the noodle dishes for the competition.
Herman had to keep a logbook detailing her courses and the progress of her project. “I have to accumulate 80 hours to get my Gold Award. I’m currently 60, but I need to do more research and develop my cookbook,” she commented. “All the girls will have a copy and I hope to put one in the middle school library and the Ulysses Philomatic Library.”
“My take on this project was to give girls more comfort and independence in the kitchen and make recipes easy for people. I also wanted the girls to find the kitchen more approachable,” Herman said. She plans to follow up with the girls and ask them to take a survey in a few months.
Herman has yet to complete her final proposal and submit the logbook and cookbook to the Girl Scout Council, who will decide if Herman fully meets the requirements and receives her Gold Award. “I have the feeling that the lessons were successful. Once the cookbook is out in the community, it will be more accessible for people to make good food easily.”