The Garden Coordinator for the Malden Community Garden Julie Mangan has been hosting cooking classes at Malden Teen Enrichment Center since 2019. This year, she has started to host them again. Her weekly cooking classes have been taking place at the Malden Teen Enrichment Center (MTEC) for the past few weeks.
With the suggestion of one of the workers in the MTEC, the self-proclaimed “Chicken Wing Expert” Jay Ortiz, Mangan had decided to cook three different flavored chicken wings and spiralized vegetables in the last cooking class.
Teenagers liked the opportunity to take cooking classes with all the equipment and ingredients provided by the MTEC. “I thought that it was a really unique opportunity since I never took a cooking class before. But going in with some experience and being able to pick up on some new things or just recognizing different recipes or techniques I can do. I thought that's what kind of made it really interesting,” said one of the cooks from the Adobo Pepper Team.
The class started with Ortizand Mangan explaining the different seasonings and how to use them effectively with the right amount. the teenagers were then divided into three groups, each with their own seasonings assigned to them: the Adobo Pepper Wings Group, the Lemon Pepper Wings Group, and the Barbecue Wings Group.
Then the teens put on their gloves and got to work seasoning the wings. They used bowls with lids and put in the wings and the spice and shook them well. Others decided to work in the spice with their hands. After every group seasoned their share of wings, they laid them down onto baking trays. In the end, every group had two trays of wings.
After the wings were put into the oven, the teens started to prepare the vegetables. Mangan had brought a vegetable spiralizer; which is used to make long, noodle-like shapes from vegetables. The teens spiralized the turnips and sweet potatoes and chopped up the onions. After the vegetables were ready it was time to season them too. Every group had their own tray and they seasoned their spiralized vegetables however they wanted.
A person from each group was checking up on the wings, too. “I had fun the whole class but checking the wings every seven minutes was quite annoying actually,” said Joe Marcellus, one of the cooks.
After the first batch of wings were done, every cook stopped what they were doing to get a taste of every team’s wings. Every person had opinions and criticisms on the wings. “The barbecue wings are too sweet, I think we used way too much brown sugar,” said Hasnaat Khan from the barbecue wing team.
“I think the lemon pepper wings are the best,” said one of the teenagers in the MTEC. “Why are the barbecue wings so sweet?” said another, “The adobo pepper ones are the best. I know because I made them!” said a cook.
“The most fun part of the class, I would say, was the mixing of the spices and the ingredients to the meat and slicing the vegetables with that special vegetable cutter and adding our favorite spices in it. But then I think some of our wings didn't catch enough spice like the spices didn't go inside the meat. When you took a bite, the inside was bland,” mentioned Marcellus.
Around the time everyone was done tasting the wings, the first batch of spiralized vegetables were out too. They were burnt, but that did not stop the cooks from tasting their own creations. There were lots of people that liked the vegetables more than the wings. “The vegetables were awesome. But although the first batch was burnt I think many of the people learned from their mistakes, you know, and I think they mastered it the second time. I think everyone enjoyed the vegetables more than the meat,” stated Marcellus.
At the end, everyone had got a taste of their own creation. Some liked the wings more, and some liked the vegetables but everyone was proud of what they had in the end. “Personally, I think the most fun was just being able to work as a group with everybody. Because normally when I'm cooking, I'm just doing it by myself. But when you have three other people with you, I feel like it's a lot more interesting and more collaborative,” added a cook from the Adobo Pepper Group.
There are going to be more classes in the proceeding weeks. Mangan said, “There's going to be four more classes this winter, and we're going to be doing hot pot, salmon with asian slaw, a barbecue outside on the grill and a vegetarian meal. These menu items came from the first class we did. I asked everybody what they were really interested in and I heard a bunch of different things. So then I kind of created these meals from the input from you guys.”
“I love the opportunity to cook here with teens, because I always want to help kids learn life skills and how they can become self-sufficient adults. It's really important for me to have the opportunity to be here and be around everybody, it is just really great. I appreciate it,” added Mangan.
The cooking classes are still going on at MTEC every Monday. If you want to learn cooking skills, and new recipes, or if you’re just hungry, come to MTEC to attend the cooking classes and bring your friends!