This is Janet Hamilton. She is the dynamo behind the Mapleton Teaching Kitchen. I met her in June 2015 at a Community Food Mentor workshop. This workshop changed me, renewed my faith in the goodness of people, and she was one of the organizers.
Teaching…Kitchen. Those two words sum up who Janet is. She is a trained chef, but you realize after talking to her for a while that she is, first and foremost, always a teacher. She loves to teach, especially teaching the teachers, and has taught many things including first aid and lifeguard certification and now she teaches about food, nutrition and cooking.
She has a lot to say — we spoke with her for over two hours about food security, teaching kids and adults how to cook healthy, inexpensive, simple meals and to make it social and fun. She studied culinary arts at New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) and worked a few stints as a chef, but using cooking to help effect positive social change appealed to her more than working in fancy restaurants.
Her classes encompass, among other things, one-pot meals, group cooking, food preserving and getting people inspired about good food and making it themselves. She especially loves inspiring kids because it is often the kids that bring their new skills to their families and there you go, change happens. Often these are kids who have never seen anything cooked from scratch from fresh ingredients, kids who too often eat fast food, processed microwaved food, or nothing at all.
She laughs and smiles a lot and has what I’ll call an Irish sense of humour. I’ll leave it at that.
She is also a masterful penny pincher when it comes to food and doesn’t waste a thing. (Students in her classes are soon made the wiser if they try to throw out anything she can use for stock.) She knows where the bargains are and how to make much from little. Another ethic that is passed on to her students.
She also continues to be a student. Recently she traveled to California to attend a weeklong master food and preserving course with her friends Laura DeGrace and Jen Hudson. She came back so fired up that she has been preserving food ever since as well as enjoying what she calls the most amazing lemons she has ever tasted.