Our pie-baking excursion had barely begun, and already I was getting a little teary-eyed subconsciously drifting between wondering what life would be like for these kids when they returned to their homes, and teaching them a few basic cooking skills.
“Wash your hands and your produce. Gather your ingredients and read your recipe from beginning to end.”
…Is there someone there to whisper words of comfort in their ears when they are sad or terrified? Do they have anyone to tell their dreams to?
“First you grip the apple with your index finger and your thumb”
…Have they ever been given advice over a steamy hot cup of cocoa with marshmallows on top?
“Take hold of the knife in your other hand and apply gentle pressure to separate the skin from the flesh.”
…Where do they go for advice?
“Yes, we could use a vegetable peeler, but then you don’t learn the proper way to handle a knife. If you don’t hold the apple correctly, the task takes longer and is much more difficult.”
…Why are they so hurt and angry?
“Be patient; the pie will be out of the oven soon.”
…What can I do to help preserve their dignity?”
I try to settle my thoughts down and accept the reality that this little group of troubled high schoolers and I have come together at The Kitchen Space to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s message of opportunity and equality, and to bake an apple pie — not bring about world peace. On second thought, maybe we could…
Tears well up in my eyes as we talk about slavery and civil rights, and the role education plays in the pursuit of freedom. They tell me about the role models in their community and I get them thinking about the ways food careers are linked with independence, notoriety, and prosperity. They giggle and chat incessantly as they eagerly wait for their pies to emerge from the oven — expressing a new-found confidence and pride in their work and showing respect for the commercial kitchen by cleaning their tools and their workspace, all while patiently anticipating the pleasure of the first bite of a simple, sweet treat that they made themselves.
They wrap their warm pies in foil. Head toward the Travis County van that gives them a second chance. Then one of the boys breaks through the tough-guy persona he had projected just 90 minutes earlier by expressing his appreciation for our time together.
And he gives me a hug.
This risky, tender-hearted gesture captures the very essence of the SANDE Youth Project, the nonprofit mentoring and training program I founded to inspire and empower underserved youngsters toward healthy, productive futures. It also personifies the vision of last week’s MLK Day Dream Pie Social for fellowship and unity:
“A pie is a warm hug wrapped in a crust.”
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If you would like to learn more about The SANDE Youth Project visit my website at:
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