What?: Along with ice lollies, which she will happily munch through an entire pack of in mere minutes come heat wave or hurricane, pasta comfortably tops Babu’s list of all-time favourite foods. Ask her what she wants for dinner tonight and 99.9 times out of 100 she will say pasta, usually whilst wearing a world-weary expression that says “what the hell else would I want for dinner, idiot?”.
So you see why I thought this class would be a safe bet: it’s pasta, it’s play, it’s pasta ‘n’ play. Except there was actually no pasta involved whatsoever; not a morsel of macaroni, a strand of spaghetti or a crumb of cannelloni. Instead we were making sweet potato bites. Crap, I thought, knowing fully well that Babu won’t touch sweet potato with a bargepole, and that I wouldn’t even be able to polish them off for her since they were full of nuts and I have a fairly serious allergy.
Believe it or not none of this mattered too much. Babu is well versed in home food prep and was more than happy to peel, scoop, crush, mix and chop (obviously with adult supervision and plastic-bladed knives) without worrying too much about whether or not she was going to be made to eat the result. She clearly enjoyed the process of combining the various colours (orange potato, brown cocoa, white coconut) and textures (sticky honey, crumbly nuts, dry oats) together into bite-size balls – even if the tasting of said balls was met with a grimace that said “don’t put this in my mouth again. Ever”.
While the class was generally relaxed, as one would hope of something designed for ages 2-8, it did feel a little frantic at the beginning as teacher Vicky quickly worked her way around each of the five mini chefs, helping them to crush their nuts, slice their dried fruit and scoop out their sweet potatoes (the need for speed actually didn’t make much sense since this is a 50-minute class with no actual cooking involved and we ended up with loads of time to play at the end), but once all the steps with the potential for maiming were complete it did feel a lot more chilled.
I’m a big believer in starting them young when it comes to cooking, if only to stop them from going off to uni with the inability to boil an egg, and the mix of ages (there were two kids younger than Babu and the oldest one there was seven) didn’t really matter, since most children will learn to cook at home with older or younger siblings anyway. I did feel that the ‘play’ element was slightly lost given that there was a pretty specific set of instructions and a definite right way of doing things – as opposed to the messing around spilling ingredients all over the floor I was half expecting – but then I guess the objective was to create something at least semi-edible.
Where and When?: Classes take place at Hygge Pygge play cafe in Camden (Chalk Farm 5 mins) and 3 House Club family club (St. John’s Wood 7 mins) on Fridays at 4.15pm and Mondays at 10am respectively.
Best Bits: There aren’t a lot of cookery classes around and it was nice to do something a bit different from the art and movement classes that seem to dominate the pages of Hoop. I think the concept is great – and probably a lot more vital than we tend to think (I mean, being able to prepare food for ourselves is a pretty key life skill, right?), and I love that Vicky uses healthy, seasonal, ingredients in all her recipes. Babu was engaged right up to the end of the class, which at the moment is nothing short of a miracle, and I didn’t really care that she didn’t eat her creations – process over product, init.
Worst Bits: The presence of nuts always freaks me out and ideally I’d have liked to have been warned about them pre-class. Thankfully there were no brazil nuts in the vicinity (I can seriously just look at those things and my entire head swells to the size of a watermelon) but still, argh.
Facilities: Buggy parking, baby changing, materials provided.
Cost: £15 for a single session (£5 for siblings) or £122.73 for a full term (£40.91 for siblings).
Would We Come Back?: Yes, depending on what was being made that week and on the condition that it was nut-free. Upcoming workshops include spinach gnocchi, fruit kebabs and stuffed peppers, and while I’m not sure Babu would eat any of those things either they all sound good to me.
Babu gets stuck into sweet potato ball making at a Pasta ‘n’ Play class, Hygge Pygge, Camden.