Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Cooking Class for Seniors


Shel_B
 Share

Recommended Posts

It's possible that I may be giving a few lessons in basic cooking skills to some seniors at the local senior center. The plan as it is now is to describe various cookware and how it's used, teach a few basic skills such as sautéing, making pasta, baking and roasting, and provide a few simple, inexpensive, and easy to prepare dishes as well as describing ingredients and the places where they can be conveniently and perhaps inexpensively purchased. It might also be nice to take a group on a field trip to one or two markets to point out ingredients that might be appropriate, such as low salt items, items that are good for diabetics, low fat foods, and the like.

So, if anyone has some additional ideas for this class, maybe some recipes or techniques that would be good for the older folks, fire away. I'd love to hear them.

Thanks!

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shel, I cook for my mother who was a pretty good cook in her day.

I don't know that technique and basic skills are a primary focus. This is a generate that learned and knew how to cook. They probably need just a brushing up on their skills rather than in-dept training. Here are some of the things I've learned from my very active and very lucid 90 year old mother

1) If they're going to cook, it needs to be quick and easy, with a few key ingredients

2) You can make a lot of things in a 9" omelet pan other than eggs. There can be lifing difficulties in handling big and/or heavy pans

3) Don't overwhelm with big portions,

4) Don't dumb down the recipes and don't be afraid to use bold seasonings. My mother eats chile and mole and doesn't bat an eyelash.

5) NO al dente vegetables and maybe no salads depending upon the digestive system

6) Play to their favorite foods. Conversely, if your audience went through the Great Depression there may be aversions to some foods; it was canned pink salmon in my mother's case.

7) Stress the importance of adequate fluid intake

My mother eats well and enjoys her meals, and most of her friends - who are all between 83 to 95 do too. They eat regular foods, very few special diets, they just eat less of it. They're also usually on the look out for cheap eats. It's a frugal generation to the core. Sometimes how good it tastes isn't as important as how economical it is.

Good luck with your classes, I'm sure they'll be great

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shel, I cook for my mother who was a pretty good cook in her day.

I don't know that technique and basic skills are a primary focus. This is a generate that learned and knew how to cook. They probably need just a brushing up on their skills rather than in-dept training. Here are some of the things I've learned from my very active and very lucid 90 year old mother

1) If they're going to cook, it needs to be quick and easy, with a few key ingredients

2) You can make a lot of things in a 9" omelet pan other than eggs. There can be lifing difficulties in handling big and/or heavy pans

3) Don't overwhelm with big portions,

4) Don't dumb down the recipes and don't be afraid to use bold seasonings. My mother eats chile and mole and doesn't bat an eyelash.

5) NO al dente vegetables and maybe no salads depending upon the digestive system

6) Play to their favorite foods. Conversely, if your audience went through the Great Depression there may be aversions to some foods; it was canned pink salmon in my mother's case.

7) Stress the importance of adequate fluid intake

My mother eats well and enjoys her meals, and most of her friends - who are all between 83 to 95 do too. They eat regular foods, very few special diets, they just eat less of it. They're also usually on the look out for cheap eats. It's a frugal generation to the core. Sometimes how good it tastes isn't as important as how economical it is.

Good luck with your classes, I'm sure they'll be great

Hi, thanks for your suggestions. A fair number of participants in the class are expected to be men who have depended on their wives to prepare meals, and who really do need some basic cooking skills.

I was concerned about big and bold seasonings and spicy dishes. Glad to hear that that may be acceptable. A lot of the folks that I know at the center are more interested in milder food, but they may not be the ones signing on to a cooking class. There are definitel some folks there who are more adventurous - guess I'll just ahve to see how each class shapes up and be prepared to go either way, although leading those who are more interested in milder meals to something a little more exciting might work - plus seasonings can always be adjusted up or down.

I'm definitely aware of lifting difficulties, especially since I suffer from back pain and sometimes have problems in that area. Hadn't thought about fluid intake. That sounds like a good point to touch on.

Kind regards,

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing about spicy foods is that many seniors equate them with heartburn or indigestion. Usually this is because their experiences with "spicy" were really experiences with greasy/spicy. Taste buds dull as we get older so they often find spicier food more appealing.

Another consideration is teaching them about mixing and matching and the basic concept of the divided plate- protein/veg/starch, as well as food storage and microwave use for leftovers. Showing them how to roast (bake) some chicken and then have it with potatoes roasted alongside one day, tossed with pasta and a sauce the next, and then all of the leftovers warmed in broth as a soup/stew on the third is stuff they probably would not think of on their own. As for storage, I would include easy labeling and general outline of how long stuff lasts in the fridge. Also cooking in batches- especially if cooking for one person. For example You CAN boil pasta, rice or potatoes and keep some in the fridge for later in the week, and freeze some in individual servings.

In conjunction with the above I think charts work well as a handout.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not that I consider myself a senior yet (unless I go to a movie at night and there's a low discount age) but I recently had a sobering experience when a tea-kettle burned out because I forgot about it.

Remind your students to all purchase a small, portable easy to operate timer, and encourage them to take it with them if they move out of the kitchen while something is simmering or baking. Some of the new timers are not very loud, and if I go away and start reading I need that buzzer to be within hearing range.

My mother is 92, and she eats a lot of soup. She doesn't bother much with cooking and has a couple of soup take-out places within a couple of blocks of her apt. She seems impervious to the high quantities of salt in prepared foods, but many of us, including myself, can't handle all that salt, so learning to make a few very simple soups with low-fat low-salt broth is an asset. It's easy to freeze in portions. And ingredients can be cooked til soft without losing flavor or nutrients.

Another useful thing to know how to do well: poach chicken breasts. If they are boiled or overcooked that pricey white breast meat turns tough and stringy. Poached and shredding tender chicken stored in broth has many, many uses, and also freezes well in portions.

Sounds like a good thing you are doing.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not that I consider myself a senior yet (unless I go to a movie at night and there's a low discount age) but I recently had a sobering experience when a tea-kettle burned out because I forgot about it.

A new thing is on the market and NOT well publicized at all. It's called a Stove Guardand it sits in between your stove plug and the wall plug. It is both a motion sensor and a timer and has a number of options on it. The one trick is to remember to turn it back on after you have turned it back off. However, it has already saved our bacon...well, house and lives, not actually bacon...a number of times. DH will leave the stove on high and forget to turn it off...speaking of seniors.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A fair number of participants in the class are expected to be men who have depended on their wives to prepare meals, and who really do need some basic cooking skills.

Do make sure you remind the guys not to dump grease down the sink!

Edited by heidih
fix quote tags (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In my first culinary class at a community college we had an older gentleman who never had any food to "present" at the end of class. After a few classes the teacher paired him with me to find out what was going on. He was terrified of the knives so his cuts were awful and he was too embaressed to show his dish. It so happened we were making soup that day so it was easy to say Hey just throw it in the pot, it's soup.

So knife skills are going to be a big one

tricks and tips like lining baking pans with foil for easy/no cleanup might be nice too

Taking a roast chicken through some salad dishes too...regular chicken salad, chinese chicken salad, mustard or other dressing combos

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

My Webpage

garden state motorcyle association

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Several of the seniors that I know seem to have limited hand strength and manual dexterity, so, say, a garlic press might be hard to use.

Food safety, particularly the importance of expiration dates (and when they're safe to ignore, what to look for, etc) might be relevant, especially if you have folks who grew up poor and/or are on limited income now.

Joanna G. Hurley

"Civilization means food and literature all round." -Aldous Huxley

Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK. Just HOW OLD are these OLD people?

People that use the center regularly are between about sixty and 100yo, but I have no idea who will be taking the class and what their ages are other than they'll probably be older than sixty. The attendees may not all be regulars at the center.

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of good ideas here. This may be a bit of a challenge since it sounds like you will have experienced cooks, as well as not-so-experienced cooks. Do you know about how many to expect?

By the time they are 60, most people have well established food likes and dislikes. In order to not be creating unnecessary resistance to what you have to offer, it may be helpful to take your lead by asking each of them at the start to tell you what dishes they like and what they avoid. You could also then ask them if they are interested in learning some new tricks, and go from there.

My experience has been that older peoples' tastes vary widely. Some like spicy; some don't...and that may have changed since they were younger. Some like spicy, but their digestive systems don't; so some tips on how to get more flavor with herbs they don't react to, might be welcome. Mrs. Dash to the rescue for many.

Good luck and let us know how it goes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought I'd put my two sense in since I work everyday in a health campus. My food is not spicy, just flavorful. I would highly recommend that you concentrate on combination of flavors rather than one spice. Example would be make a lemon, blueberry pie or meat with fruit glaze.

When we get older, we loose the distinction between flavors. Creating a meal that has layers of flavors is more exciting to them than just load up the chili powder..

Use many different things in a salad, fruit, veggies, nuts, etc. Challenge their taste buds to all of the differences.. Then make a fresh vinaigrette with fresh herbs, lemons or oranges to bring it all together.

Create hot and cold on the plate, salty, and bitter, sweet and sour.. That keeps the elderly engaged in the meal instead of just eating it~

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My grandmother never did quite learn how to scale down her meals after raising her family. She lived into her 80s and until the day she passed away, she made great big pots of everything. Most of it ruined in the refrigerator. It wasn't an economical way to cook. She was used to making ends meet, so even in her later years she would buy a big piece of inexpensive meat to stew or braise or something to feed a family who didn't live with her anymore.

Maybe you could focus on cooking for 1 or 2 people and show how that buying better quality for just a portion or two could seem extravagant and delicious -- while still cheaper than overcooking.

Good luck with your project. Sounds like it will be something really great for them and fun for you.

Rhonda

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would encourage you to look around for specific, inexpensive equipment that can multitask, and to adapt some recipes and techniques to it.

Example: for cooking pasta, most people lift the pot of boiling pasta off the stove, carry it over to the sink, and dump it in a colander. Many older people cannot safely move a pot of boiling water. I'm thinking that perhaps you could find a good, deep, wire mesh colander that could sit in the pot while the water comes to a boil, contain the pasta while it's cooking, and be lifted out with just the pasta in it, when done. There are specific pasta pots that do this well, but they're expensive. Williams-Sonoma has rubber gloves that are nearly heatproof, that would be perfect for this job; perhaps other companies do also.

Many vegetables would be much easier to cut if they spent a couple of minutes in the microwave, and then were allowed to cool. With this method, however, recipe cooking times would likely need to be adjusted.

It would be helpful, also, to emphasize basic kitchen logistics and safety. Before I had cataract surgery, even with my glasses on I could not read many labels. I wrecked a dish one night because I put baking soda in it, instead of cornstarch. People with vision issues need to keep a magnifying glass in the kitchen, and should keep ingredients that look similar, in containers that don't, preferably with very large labels.

Our later years are a good time to pare down. My 83-year-old mother will not deal with the idea that she no longer needs all of the cooking equipment she used 10 years ago. If she resumes her old habit of crawling up onto chairs to get heavy objects off of high shelves, we're going to have to take measures to solve that problem before something terrible happens, and she's going to be very angry with us. Encourage class participants to think realistically about how they can create delicious, flavorful meals with just a few pieces of simple equipment. It's an issue, too, that Mom thinks the only bowl she can use for pie crust is the yellow one; she uses a different, but similar sized bowl for yet another task. Hence, she has several bowls of nearly the same size, none of which she will let go of. The result is an overcrowded kitchen that is very difficult to work in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One item you might want to consider is banana bread. Everyone seems to love it and it is very easy to make. Plus, you can save on the bananas by asking the produce person if they have any old bananas in the back that they are going to throw out. They will usually charge you very little for them. And if they give you more than you currently need, you can take them home, peel them and put them in a freezer bag to freeze. Then pull out what you need when you want to make some bread. Seniors always love ways to save money in my experience. Just a thought.

John

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Are you teaching a series of classes to the same group of seniors, or will they be stand-alone classes to various groups?

If you've got the same group for several classes, a good way to start would be to ask them what they're looking for, and then tailor subsequent classes to their needs. I do this with a class for beginners, and it's surprising how different their expectations can be.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Are you teaching a series of classes to the same group of seniors, or will they be stand-alone classes to various groups?

If you've got the same group for several classes, a good way to start would be to ask them what they're looking for, and then tailor subsequent classes to their needs. I do this with a class for beginners, and it's surprising how different their expectations can be.

It will probably be a series of classes for a group. Your suggestion is similar to what I do when teaching a Photoshop class.

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many vegetables would be much easier to cut if they spent a couple of minutes in the microwave, and then were allowed to cool. With this method, however, recipe cooking times would likely need to be adjusted.

I'm old and I have trouble cutting things...usually get the DH to do it. A few more words on this issue would be very welcome. Never heard of the idea before.

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I sincerely want to thank everyone for their contributions. There are definitely some good, and applicable, ideas in this thread.

The class will probably start some time next month, so there's ample time for more ideas and suggestions and to implement those that will be used. Keep the ideas coming ...

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One item you might want to consider is banana bread. Everyone seems to love it and it is very easy to make. Plus, you can save on the bananas by asking the produce person if they have any old bananas in the back that they are going to throw out.

John

I've never made banana bread and don't do a good job with baked goods. However, I could distribute some recipes and provide information on where to get free bananas, which are easy for me to get.

Thanks!

 ... Shel


 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many vegetables would be much easier to cut if they spent a couple of minutes in the microwave, and then were allowed to cool. With this method, however, recipe cooking times would likely need to be adjusted.

I'm old and I have trouble cutting things...usually get the DH to do it. A few more words on this issue would be very welcome. Never heard of the idea before.

Whether you'd want to do this would depend on what you're making. Say you're getting ready to slice carrots for soup. If you peel and remove the root end from the carrots and nuke them on a plate for 2 to 3 minutes, they're going to have cooked some, if not completely, and will be far easier to slice than when they were raw. (Allow them to cool before attempting to slice.) Carrots are usually added pretty early in a soup recipe, because they're hard and they cook more slowly than other vegetables. With that in consideration, you would want to put them in later in the process, depending on how completely they were cooked.

That's the basic idea. There are lots of things to be taken into consideration, and it would be necessary to analyze the situation a bit to figure out what would work and what wouldn't. Some vegetables, like onions, are probably actually easier to slice when fresh than they would be when softened. Raw meat actually slices easier when slightly frozen than when completely thawed.

I think it's necessary, as we age, to rethink how we do a lot of things. In my post above, when I was pre-cataract surgery, I was only about 52 years old, and utterly failed to be realistic about my situation. (The problem wasn't cataracts as much as just plain poor vision, which had steadily become worse after I turned 40.) Now, at age 55, I am taking a long, hard look at whether I really need a food processor; and if I do, whether I need a large one. I have a small kitchen, so getting one of those nifty gizmos that stores a heavy appliance under the counter and then ta-da! effortlessly moves it up to counter height, is out of the question. It's not, however, out of the question to continually evaluate new products on the market in light of whether they might be more suited to my current cooking patterns than what I have. Williams-Sonoma, for about $20, sells a food chopper that has a large ring that is pulled like the starter on a lawn mower:

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/veggiechop-vegetable-chopper/?pkey=cfruit-vegetable-tools%7Cctlfvtveg

It chops raw carrots, onions, and just about anything else, and in the end it's truly easier for me than a food processor or trying to chop by hand, and it's very easy to clean. Other "innovations" have been more trouble than they're worth, and it pays to evaluate carefully and ask questions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks jgm for the clarification. And the Williams-Sonoma pull toy looks like a good one.

When we get back to the States, I'll find one. Don't know where to get one in Canada.

The Canadian stores can, theoretically, ship within Canada. There are several stores in Ontario.

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/veggiechop-vegetable-chopper/?pkey=cmandolines-slicers

Karen Dar Woon

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...