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Picturesque Cooking: Summer class at DL's Boys & Girls Club teaches gardening, cooking – and photography

Instructor Donna Anderson (center) smiles proudly as her students take photos of the vegetable garden they have helped to grow this summer at the Boys & Girls Club in Detroit Lakes. The students have been using the photos they take to journal the results of their gardening efforts since June. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)1 / 3
The students in the Picturesque Cooking class listen intently as instructor Donna Anderson (at right) and Leigh Nelson-Edwards (in back) lead them through making a fresh salad from the produce they have just finished gathering in the Boys & Girls Club vegetable garden. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)2 / 3
Instructor Leigh Nelson-Edwards (center) shares a laugh with her students as they review the different parts of a camera during a session of the "Picturesque Cooking" class she shares with Donna Anderson. (Vicki Gerdes/Tribune)3 / 3

Farm-to-table cooking classes — where the participants pluck fruits, vegetables and herbs fresh from the garden and bring them directly into the kitchen for preparation in a variety of recipes — are one of the hottest trends in American food culture right now.

But at the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, University of Minnesota Extension Educator Donna Anderson and Becker County 4-H Coordinator Leigh Nelson-Edwards have added yet another element to their summer-long class for students at the club — photography.

"We combined our nutrition and photography programs into one class," Nelson-Edwards explained.

"We call it 'Picturesque Cooking,'" added Anderson.

The classes, which began in June and will continue through next week's pizza party wrapup, incorporate basic photography skills with learning gardening and farm-to-table cooking recipes, in a unique curriculum tailored specifically for the club's young students.

"We've had six classes of about two hours each," Anderson said.

"We start out each class with about 15-30 minutes of photography," said Nelson-Edwards.

At Tuesday's class, they started out by reviewing the different parts of the camera, as well as the different photography terms and techniques they had learned over the summer?

"Do you remember what this word means?" said Nelson-Edwards, as she wrote out the word "composition" on a small whiteboard.

The students couldn't quite come up with the answer, so she said, "It's the overall look of a photo — how everything's arranged."

The students then reviewed terms like "rule of thirds" and framing a photo before Anderson took over, discussing the different parts of a plant that can be eaten.

For instance, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers are the fruit of a plant, while celery stalks come from the stem, and cauliflower and broccoli come from the flower of the plant.

After that brief lesson the students headed outside, to the club's vegetable garden, where they harvested some of the ripe plants they found for use in a fresh salad that they would make together.

As they gathered their fresh veggies together, they took photos of the garden, to document how the plants had grown and developed since the previous class.

"Today, I want you to have some fun with hands-on photography, and practice what you've already learned," said Nelson-Edwards.

"They've also been journaling as part of the class — keeping track of the garden's progress," said Anderson.

"I've asked them to choose two or three photos from each class to put in their journals," added Nelson Edwards.

After they were done taking pictures of the plants, the students took their produce inside for washing before cutting them up and tossing them into a fresh salad. During the final part of the class, they broke up into small groups to make smoothies and pudding.

When class is not in session, Anderson said, the students keep busy by weeding and watering the garden.

Though this Tuesday was the last official class session, Anderson noted that the students will be taking part in a "One Vegetable, One Community" event at the Boys and Girls Club this coming Monday, Aug. 21.

"They will be making homemade pizzas to serve to families and community members who stop in that afternoon between 4-6 p.m.," she added. "They will be using the basil and oregano from their raised gardens. A gallery of their photos, taken during the six week series, will also be on display.

"Then on Wednesday, Aug. 23, the summer gardening group will go to the DLCCC and make pizzas with the senior bingo group. They will eat the pizzas together after they are made."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 18-plus years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Detroit Lakes School Board. 

(218) 844-1454