Iqaluit cooking club preps for family Christmas concert
“I like taste-testing cookies when no one’s looking”
Karena Watson, a Grade 5 student at Nanook Elementary School in Apex, makes big eyes and smiles when asked about her favourite part of the Nanook Cooking Club.
“I like taste-testing cookies when no one’s looking,” she says quietly, dimples flanking her smile.
And her favourite cookie for testing?
“I don’t know if I have a favourite, but I like chocolate. No, double chocolate!” the 10-year old says.
Kerry McCluskey, an Apex resident and parent, started the volunteer club in 2014 to introduce kids to the joy of cooking while fostering important values like healthy eating and responsible grocery shopping.
The club meets once a week, on Fridays, to cook, bake and have fun.
“The kids have gotten real good. We can do things pretty quickly now,” McCluskey said in the school’s kitchen Dec. 4, the squeals of 27 kids echoing from the gym next door.
Luckily, the club has access to the school gym, where kids can blow off extra energy before getting down to business.
“My favourite part is when we play around in the gym,” eight-year-old Tiala Sparks said outside the gym, slightly out of breath.
But the Grade 4 student said she also likes making gingerbread cookies in shapes like reindeer or puppies and decorating them with M&Ms.
Nine-year old William Pothier, also in Grade 4, said he prefers to decorate his gingerbread cookies with sprinkles of all colours.
“I like just having a ball of gingerbread and pressing it down and making my own shape,” he said
One of Pothier’s favourite memories of the cooking club this year is when participants made and brought dozens of meatballs to the Iqaluit soup kitchen.
That was one of seven-year old Carlita Foyn’s favourite memories too because she enjoyed rolling the sticky meat into balls.
“We get to roll them and then feed people who don’t have any food,” said Foyn, a Grade 2 student.
The importance of community service is another valuable lesson kids learn at the club.
“I really like that the kids are learning community service, so they can grow up to be good citizens,” McCluskey said.
The kids have invited their families and peers to reap the benefits of their culinary skills for the second Christmas in a row. This year, they’ll cater a Christmas concert at Nanook School on Dec. 18.
And their efforts have attracted some friends in high places, such as Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak, who, in the legislative assembly this year, praised the club’s contribution to the community.
The MLA asked the club to cater a constituency meeting she’s holding in the new year with pizzas, McCluskey said.
And for Berk Chaput, a six-year old in Grade 1, that’s perfect.
“My favourite thing to cook is pizza with pepperoni, pepperoni, pepperoni!” she said.
McCluskey said she’s grateful for the City of Iqaluit’s financial support — the club’s only funding source — and that fundraising efforts this past year allowed the club to buy a new two-oven stove and a microwave.
“I think we’ll be able to go on more field trips next year, like to the soup kitchen or the grocery store,” she said.
After helping to clean up the mess from baking Christmas cookies and a few more hooting and hollering laps around the gym, the kids pick up a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese and settle down to eat on a long bench outside the gym.
The kids eat quietly, hungrily, as another day at the Nanook Cooking Club winds down.