Nolita and Cocas making pink heart cookies.
I really love Nolita and Cocas, two girls in the orphanage. They both came from pretty difficult situations when they first arrived here a few years before I did. I used to really worry about them when they were about 12 and 11 – seeing how much they would have to struggle to overcome the situations that led them to the orphanage. Now they are 15 and 14 and they are both doing really great!
I used to do occasional baking projects with all the girls at once but it was such a huge ordeal that we hardly ever did it. Then I finally realized that if I just worked with two girls at a time (week after week) – they could actually really learn to bake and cook well and then teach others.
Even within the chaos of the entire group baking/cooking (like 20 girls at once, which is really fun but really crazy) I was kind of shocked to learn that Cocas and her older sister Minoca had actually learned to bake a cake! Once in a while the kids get a chance to go out and visit their relatives and the last time Cocas and Minoca went they came back and told me they had baked a cake for their relatives and the family had loved it! This really touched me and made me realize they were getting much more out of the opportunity to cook than I realized was possible in this setting.
So I decided that I would just work with two girls at a time and I chose Cocas and Nolita because they were two of the girls who have not been involved with the other things going on (like the band and different things that come up in the orphanage, at church, or in school).
This has been a really great thing for me and I think for them too! I at first planned to just work with the two of them for about a month, then extended it to two months and now it’s been almost a year. I can just see how valuable the whole thing is and I don’t want to end it with these two.
I know that to most people reading this – it doesn’t seem like it would be difficult to learn to cook with measuring spoons. But here it is a pretty foreign thing and when I have worked with different women and girls here– using measuring spoons has been a really difficult thing to “get” (and don’t even get me started on the concept of fractions (not) being taught (for understanding) in school here). So I know this may not sound like a huge “feat” – but if you could see how difficult a thing it is to follow a written recipe here . . . We can now just give Cocas and Nolita a recipe and they can go into the kitchen and basically bake anything by themselves – and I am very happy and impressed with them for this!
During the week we usually ask the kids what they want us to bake for breakfast Sunday morning and they usually want corn bread (my mom's yellow cake corn bread recipe but with corn flour). Other favorites are banana bread, carrot cake, and cinnamon rolls. Then each Saturday the girls walk down the road and buy eggs from the local egg seller. Recently the egg sellers have become interested in what they're doing with the eggs and when they heard that they were making "cakes" they wanted to know what kind. When they heard they were "American cakes," the egg sellers got even more interested and then asked if next week we could pay them in cake instead of money!
This week the girls asked if there was such thing as coconut cake and if so, could we make one? (Little do they know there is EVERY kind of cake.) We have coconut trees all over (including a really good one in the middle of the orphanage) but our coconuts (according to those who know these things) aren't ready. So this morning we came up with some change and then the girls went and bought some coconuts and grated all the coconut meat out with this little coconut grater stool thing (I'll put a picture up another time - it's a really good little contraption).
Right now Nolita and Cocas are in our kitchen baking coconut cake for all the kids for breakfast tomorrow morning and our house smells really good!