Back in my day, or maybe someone older’s day, kids used to be of more use in a kitchen and were often given the simple yet character-building job of peeling potatoes. Kids today have been too protected from manual labor of any kind - most likely because their parents live in fear that some sinister child protection agency will hunt them down for making their child’s heart rate hit a level where sweat may become an issue.
Today, I went to one of my boy’s classes in the second grade in order to help prepare a Thanksgiving vegetable stew “feast.” It was the volunteer’s job to assist and instruct the kids on how to properly prepare the vegetables for the stew. There were about 5 stations, one for celery cutting, carrot peeling, potato and carrot cutting, onion cutting (this brave role was manned by one of the kid’s father’s who worked at the air force base, very brave, very brave indeed). The 5th station was mine, that of potato peeling. I was surprised how many kids had to be shown how to use a peeler. First I had to stress the proper holding of the potato, then the side of the blade to use, and how to not slice your finger. We ended up with only two sliced fingers and only one drew blood. There was actually only one child, a girl whose mother must be under investigation, who knew how to peel her potato and did it with great proficiency. I cheered each child along as they learned this lost childhood art and encouraged them to go home and tell their parents that they would be able to help in the kitchen this year in preparing for the Thanksgiving meal. None of them expressed my enthusiasm for their new skill, but they might have just had a silent joy, too deep to express in words.