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Giving Kids The Good Stuff

March 23, 2016

I wanted to call this post The Kids Are Alright but apparently, I used that title just about a year ago when writing about a school field trip to the Bronx Zoo. It just so happens that today’s post is also about the same school, but different kids.

Yesterday, I told you my plan about going into the elementary school and talking to fifty first graders about food criticism. A big part of my presentation relied upon bringing in donuts to use as a teaching tool.

Now these weren’t going to be just any donuts. I figured that I would bring the students what I consider to be the single best donut in the Capital Region. Schuyler Bakery’s old fashioned cake donut. A donut I only discovered thanks to writing The Best Dozen feature for All Over Albany where I ended up eating 141 donuts looking for the best twelve in the area. If you want to know how much I love these donuts, you can read my Yelp review to help put all of this in context.

Everything was going fine, except as I was leaving the bakery, I got a stern warning from the owner. He admonished me for not getting the glazed donuts and was absolutely convinced that the first graders were going to hate the old fashioneds.

Oh no!

Self-doubt started to creep in. Did I make a terrible mistake? Will my efforts to introduce the students to something so much better than anything at Dunkin’ Donuts backfire and drive them deeper into the clutches of the pink and orange behemoth?

On one hand, I trust that business owners have a deep understanding of their products and the customers. Especially ones that have been around as long as Schuyler Bakery. Obviously, to cause such a reaction, the owner must have seen countless kids snub these amazing, if unadorned, cake donuts.

On the other hand, I knew what I wanted to accomplish at my talk. And perhaps more importantly, I knew how I was going to present the donuts. In fact, Jay may have done me a great favor, because I passed his admonition on to the kids. Telling a first grader that an adult says they aren’t going to like something, is an instant way to pique their interest.

Remember, the point of the bringing donuts to the school was not to give the kids a treat. The point was to get them thinking about food in a different way.

So when they got a piece of the donut, I told them not to eat it.

First we were going to look at it. What’s the color? How would you describe the shade of brown? Is the shape even? How about the interior? What can you tell about the texture just by looking? Can you observe any bits inside the donut?

Then we were going to smell it. I explained to them that taste is smell. And often times people don’t take the time to adequately taste their food. They gobble it down. But today we were going to eat it slowly and pay attention to how it feels in our mouths. And try to really pick out the flavor of the donut.

Only then did I let them eat it.

And guess what? They loved it. Even without me telling them what I loved about it, they totally nailed this donut’s winning properties. They got the bit about the juxtaposition of textures, between the crunchy shell and the tender interior. They thought it tasted like apple cider, which is pretty good for first graders to pick up on the nutmeg and connect it to the most common thing in their lives that contains the same flavor. They said it was sweet, but not too sweet. And when asked by a show of hands who enjoyed that donut, over 90% of those hands went up.

You know what they didn’t love? Me telling them my true thoughts on Dunkin’ Donuts and sharing my tasting notes from the donuts AOA Greg forced me to sample. You should have seen those long faces when I told them that I thought Dunkin’ Donuts was truly awful.

I’m not sure if that message really got hammered home. But I did get to share the snippets from the AOA story with all of their descriptive language. Man, those donuts were awful to have in my mouth, but they were a lot of fun to write about.

In the end, the kids thought it was cool. Or maybe they thought it was on fleek. Kids today, and their crazy language. Anyway, I’ve been invited back to join the first grade for a nacho and salsa tasting at Moe’s later this week

But I think there’s a larger point here. Kids can enjoy more foods than one might expect, if given the opportunity, and provided the right context. And I think this is one of the more encouraging findings in the history of this blog.

Because I don’t doubt that there are lots of kids who would be horribly disappointed to be promised donuts, only to receive a big box of drab dark brown old fashioneds. I’m sure that’s actually true for most kids. However, that doesn’t mean that kids can’t appreciate the good stuff, especially if you take the time to show them, and make it accessible.

The only problem is once you get the kids hooked on better food, the genie is out of the bottle. There’s no going back. Fortunately, I think I can live with that.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. RogerK permalink
    March 23, 2016 1:18 pm

    Bravo!

  2. MikeH permalink
    March 23, 2016 1:59 pm

    I’ve been eating Schuyler Bakery old fashioned doughnuts for close to 40 years now. My family always referred to them as sinkers. I think because they are heavy and are good for dunking in a cup of coffee – especially if they are a day or two old. Try taking a fresh old fashioned, slicing it in half and spreading on a little peanut butter. You won’t be disappointed.

  3. albanylandlord permalink
    March 23, 2016 9:37 pm

    Cool adventure. You got me thinking about what food lessons could be taught to first graders in one or a few lessons. I think that was a good one. Maybe a side by side with a DD plain donut would have helped?

  4. Grrrr permalink
    March 27, 2016 7:47 pm

    My favorite donut as a child was on old fashioned donut “stick” filled with jelly. Or just a plain old fashioned donut. I loved the crispy exterior and the dense, lightly seasoned interior. The ones I remember came from Dunkin way back in the day when each shop made their donuts in-house and fresh several times a day. Sadly I haven’t seen either version at a DD in years and I no longer buy donuts at DD because they are now all factory made, highly processed and shipped in. I’m looking forward to trying Schuyler Bakery’s version. Thanks for the tip.

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