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Batter Up! Cooking Classes (Summer Sessions) – St. Louis

June 8, 2016

Batter Up! Cooking Classes (Summer Sessions) - St. Louis
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Batter Up Cooking Class
Full Stomach and Fuller Heart:
An Intern’s Reflection of Batter’s Up Cooking Class
By: Gabrielle Fales

I must admit that in the few hours before Batter’s Up cooking class was to begin, I was feeling pretty nervous. I have always enjoyed cooking, but I know from my experience trying to cook with my four little brothers that sometimes cooking can mean a messy kitchen and lots of chaos. So a kitchen full of 18 chefs sounded a bit overwhelming to me. Plus, I would be meeting some of the people the foundation serves for the first time.

I walked toward the entrance to Dierbergs in Ellisville, Missouri trying to find my way to the door while peering over the edge of the cardboard box I was holding. The box was filled to the brim with black aprons carefully embroidered with the Batter’s Up logo in Pujols Family Foundation Red. I nervously entered the cooking class room, trying to quickly figure out which of the three women inside might be Ms. Becky. But before I could make my guess, the shorter of the three women identified herself as Ms. Becky in a confident, kind, and bubbly voice. I could hear the excitement in her voice as introduced herself. If anyone else I met that evening was even a fraction as warm and welcoming as Ms. Becky, I knew it would be a good experience.

None of the families had arrived yet, so I used the time spent waiting for the participants to calm my nerves, thinking to myself that white pants were probably not the best option for a cooking class. I saw a mom and son approaching the room so I took a deep breath, and put on my friendliest smile.

“Hi, how are you two doing this evening? I’m Gabbie, I’m an intern for the summer and I’ll be helping you guys out tonight. Here’s an apron for each of you.” I greeted each pairing of participants similarly, making sure to ask their names and introduce myself each time. I wanted to get to know at least some of the families that evening.

At this point in my internship, I had only been working for about a week and a half, and while I loved all the work I had been doing at the Pujols Family Foundation, I had not yet had the opportunity to see first hand what the Foundation was all about. The only true way to be passionate about the work I was doing was to get to know the families the foundation serves. How could I encourage and expect others to be invested in our mission without myself first being invested in it?

I knew I would not remember every name I learned that evening, but I made it my goal to leave knowing at least a few. I wanted to have names and faces stand out in my mind when I used the phrase “those we serve” so that it was not just a general group of people to me, but individual and important human beings. Though I did not know it beforehand, the Batter Up cooking class was just what I needed to instill that passion in myself.

Once every one of the tall swivel seats at the counter were filled, Ms. Becky got everyone’s attention and began to explain the menu for the night: A Thanksgiving in June meal as she liked to call it (to proceed Christmas in July, of course) which included all of the traditional Thanksgiving foods but with new-school twists. Cranberry sauce with raspberry jam, chicken breast covered in sautéed mushrooms and cheese, and no-bake pumpkin pie bars. After Ms. Becky’s instructions and special tips (my favorite of her tips was for spraying pans- to avoid making a mess, put the pan on the inside of the dishwasher door, and spray. This way only the inside of the dishwasher gets greasy, and it will be washed off during the next cycle.), the chefs split up into groups to tackle each food item.

Because of the limited space and the full class size, I sat back and watched everyone get to work. Jordan and his dad started peeling potatoes. A group of four tackled the main dish, shaking up the chicken breast in bags of bread crumbs. Stuffing and cranberry sauce were cooked and mixed. Cooked carrots were glazed in dijon dressing. The pumpkin dessert was placed in the pan layer by layer, then refrigerated.

Before long, the kitchen was filled with the scents of all of my favorite Thanksgiving foods. I could feel my stomach grumbling, but I didn’t mind waiting to eat. Watching everyone cooking was much more important to me than eating dinner. My cheeks actually hurt from smiling and laughing so much. How could you not feel joy watching Joseph accidentally popping the bag and seeing breadcrumbs go flying all over the kitchen? Or listening to Andy and his sister teasing each other the whole time they made dessert? While the kitchen was definitely busy and a bit chaotic, the atmosphere was easy-going, fun, and filled with joy. I was so busy watching everyone have a good time that I didn’t realize an hour and a half had already flown by.

Once the food had been prepared, everyone took a seat and waited for it to finish cooking. At the beginning of the night, I knew no one, and not all of the participants knew each other. But after an hour of everyone working together to prep the meal, everyone seemed to fall into easy conversation. The air was now filled with chatter (and still filled with the smells of great food), and I had the opportunity to get to know some of the participants a little more. Andy and his sister sat on my right, and after talking to them for a little while, I found out that they used to live in Indiana (where I attend school). It was so neat to be able to talk about all of the places we each had been in Indy. But all of us having lived in Indiana wasn’t what made me remember them; it was the way they interacted with each other that made them so special. Andy works at a Dierbergs grocery store, so his sister decided to quiz him on the location of different products. “Okay, Andy, which aisle is cereal in?” “Aisle 10. Duh, everyone knows that!” You could see the love they have for each other, and their light-hearted nature made having fun easy and contagious.

Joshua (who “also goes by JD”) sat on my left, and while he was excited for the meal, he was much more concerned about the score of the Cardinals game. He told me it wasn’t because he really cared if they won or lost, as long as they scored six so he could get a 50 cent drink at On the Run the next day. I kept him updated throughout the night, sneaking him glances of the score on the ESPN app under the table.
When dinner was finally served, I couldn’t believe how well the dinner turned out- nor could I pick a favorite dish. The cranberry sauce was fantastic (I think because of the raspberry jam addition), and I usually do not like it at all. But the stuffing, potatoes, chicken, and carrots were equally delicious too. The no-bake pumpkin cheesecake dessert was the perfect ending to the meal. Everyone seemed so proud of the dishes they made (as they should have been!). After finishing the meal, my stomach was full, but my heart was so much fuller.

The end of the night was even sweeter than the dessert as I said goodbye to some new friends, and got hugs and thank yous even from those who I didn’t get a chance to talk to. Though the hugs were definitely welcome, I didn’t feel so sure about the thank yous. Had I really done anything for them other than take some pictures and pass out aprons? It was all of the participants that made the night so special, and them who had served me. It was a night I won’t soon forget, and the true start of my passion for the Pujols Family Foundation and those we serve- like Andy, JD, and every other great person I had the privilege to meet that night.

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Date:
June 8, 2016
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