Last week in preschool at lunch we had a thought provoking and inspired conversation about wealth. It did not begin in that way but as things often do it evolved from something else and became an experience worth sharing. We prepared a special lunch menu in honor of Cinco De Mayo. There were corn tortilla quesadillas, black beans and salsa. I told the children that I had made them something special for dessert and they were thrilled. The first child to finish his lunch called out to me from across the tables, “I’m ready for my treat.” I placed a small bowl in front of him and awaited his reaction. This treat, a relic from my childhood, had left him in a condition that I rarely witness, speechless. “This is the treat?” he asked. What was in the bowl had no frosting, sprinkles or food dye and was, by all preschooler standards “gross”. It was to my good fortune that the child was one of my more daring eaters and with some encouragement was perfectly willing to give it a try. After his initial proclamation that it was “soooo good” his classmates began to finish their lunch and request their own bowl of treat. They ate like bears straight from hibernation and most immediately asked for a second helping. Their treat was Arroz Con Leche, I told them, it was just like my Mother used to make for me and my Grandmother made for her. I make this simple Mexican comfort food for my CHA CHA and I can hopefully assume that she will someday make it in her own kitchen. The children wanted to know how my Grandmother invented this delicious treat and if we could have it every day.They surmised that she must have been rich because this was the best food in the world. We discussed the ingredients and then I explained to them that this dish was” invented” by a whole culture of people who were quite the opposite of rich. They tried to imagine me, as a little girl, in my favorite torn Star Wars pants, enjoying my own bowl of treat, that was lovingly prepared for me by my Mother. I told them that although we were a thrifty family, my life felt abundant in these moments.We talked about the many ways that people can feel wealthy despite having very few possessions and little money. It is a delight to hear our children speak of the things that hold worth for them, sunshine, a home, a favorite sweater, their blanket or kitty and of course Mom and Dad. We are on the right track, enjoying the simple things and reminding our children of the wealth of each moment.
The slightly altered Preschool version of this recipe is as follows:
(Arroz Con Leche)
2 cups of cooked rice
one can of coconut milk
1/2 cup of raisins
2 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp of honey
Serve warm and enjoy the prosperity
Children’s club began as S.E. Portland’s first cooperative preschool in 1967. At the time, many of our children were living in single parent households as a result of the Vietnam war. The expectation that the parents of enrolled children would spend days assisting in the classroom became unrealistic when many single mothers had to return to work outside of the home full time. When we began the service requirement portion of our program many years ago it was a solution to an increasing concern. Children’s Club staff did not have the extra time or finances to to meet the constantly growing needs of the program. We did not consider raising our rates to be a solution that would encourage the stability of our families. With the pooling of skills, time and donations we not only found a way to manage the needs of the center but allowed our families to become key facilitators in it’s success. Our program remains a “cooperative” as long as we are all invested in the daily operations of it’s function. Please remember to submit your service hours at the end of each month unless you have an ongoing commitment. Some ongoing service opportunities have opened up recently and will be posted on the blackboard outside of the S.O.P. room. Thank you to everyone for making this a special place for growth and community.