November 2, 2007

Family center teaches kids to cook

The Family Resource Center hosted an international cooking demonstration and potluck dinner last Friday evening. The center, which is directed by the Office of Graduate Affairs, serves professional and graduate families at the University, offering a playground, nursing rooms, parent lectures, and free events.

Although the event was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., parents—with their children in tow—were still trickling in at 4:30 p.m. Many of the kids went straight for the arts-and-crafts table while their parents set down homemade dishes for the potluck.

Vegetable stuffing for Chinese dumplings, the dish that was taught at the event, was arranged on several tables, with plates of dough wrappers in front of each chair. Staff members and parents helped the children of graduate and doctoral students spoon the mixture of bok choy, chives, and mushrooms into the wrapper and seal it. The finished products were then either boiled or fried and served with a spicy sesame oil and vinegar sauce. Pork dumplings, which had been made shortly before the class, were also served.

Michael Tower, a graduate intern at the center, brought up the idea for an international cooking class when he interviewed for the position. “We envisioned kids’ involvement from the beginning,” he said. The event also gave parents a recipe sheet describing how to prepare the dish.

The Family Resource Center was founded last fall by a grant from the University of Chicago’s Women’s Board, which cited a need for more family support on campus. The center has grown from just a few families to about 170.

Michael Anderson, a sixth-year doctoral student in music, said he was one of those early adopters of the center. “We were one of the founding families,” he said. “It used to be just a listserv with one party a year. Now it’s a real program with staff.... It’s become way more than anyone ever hoped. I’d never expected anyone to give a hoot about my family’s well-being.”

The instructor for the event, Chilan Lu, is the wife of a doctoral student in East Asian Languages at the University and a member of the center. She created the recipe for the dumplings and aided the other parents in showing their children how to make the dish. Lu noted the importance of the center in her family’s life. “You come as an attachment of your spouse,” she said. “It was hard to adjust. But this offers a community to get together to have some social time for our kids and also for ourselves.”