An Interview With Ann Parrish
President, Innovative Cooking Enterprises, Inc.
1. What was your personal motivation (aside from the obvious financial reasons and the request from the publisher) to create this book involving children and educators?
The initial seed for Electric Bread for Kids was planted when we held Martin McKay’s 9th birthday party in the test kitchen. Martin invited 12 of his relatives/friends to come to the test kitchen. The "Party Plan" was for the kids to each choose a recipe, and start a loaf of bread (about 75% chose Chocolate), make their own mini pizza for lunch. Then while the bread machine loaves and personal pizzas were baking, our Executive Chef, Tim Doebler, would "teach the kids" how to make a dinosaur out of bread dough.
The bread machine loaf and pizza part went sort of as planned. But these kids had already spent more hours making objects out of "dough" than anyone anticipated. A few gracious "followers" did make dinosaurs, but mostly the kids made what they wanted! We had platypuses, horses, ugly-wugglies, braids, ducks and on and on.
I enjoyed the party, but was particularly intrigued by the difference in the energy in the test kitchen, compared to the adult baking experience in the kitchen and via our toll free support 800 lines. This was my first hint that kids felt differently about a bread machine.
About two weeks later the thank-you cards and letters started arriving from those who attended Martin’s party. In addition to expressing their enjoyment of the party, they also mentioned appreciation at being able to learn how to use the machine to make bread and dough. Several noted they had pulled bread machines from the back of the cabinet to the counter so their children could make bread for their families.
2. Did you ever have any doubts about it succeeding?
When I was with the kids watching what was happening with them, I never doubted the book’s success! It was, without exception, one of the most exciting, exhilarating, and engaging learning experiences of my life! I was amazed at how easily the children grasped the concept of using the technology of a bread machine to create healthy, easy, and fun food.
Watching this book come to life was like an explosion of concepts in my head: "Latch-key" kids could make bread for dinner and build self-pride at the same time; families could come together to make Cinnamon Rolls on Saturday or Sunday morning. The convenience of the bread machine would enable busy parents to spend quality one-on-one time with their children. Older brothers could teach the preschooler in the family how to count as they measure the ingredients to put in the pan. The list goes on and on!
3. What do you find exciting about working with the children and educators in terms of this book project?
Of course, bright intelligent teachers were looking for a way to engage their students in hands-on interactive learning. And the book does just that! Schools are setting up bread carts containing the machines, books, and equipment to roll from classroom to classroom and allow students the opportunity for hands-on interactive learning using this smart technology.
I also love the way that kids in the test kitchen were more interested in the nutritional value of the bread than the way it looked. Kids understand the food pyramid and food safety; they love food that is homemade. They are sick of fast food restaurants and home meal replacement dinners. I also loved the way they expanded the machine’s capability through their own creativity. It was interesting to note how the children would say they had "invented" a bread, instead of "creating a recipe." They were very entrepreneurial in their bread creations!
The best part was watching children who had never made a loaf of fresh bread before delight in their own capabilities. The pride they exhibited as they left the test kitchen each Saturday with the disposable tin turkey pan full of bread was personally very rewarding. I loved seeing the shy children grow into talkative master bakers. In the beginning it took the kids about 20 minutes to start a loaf of bread machine bread, whereas at the end of the six-month period they had mastered it, taking only 4 minutes to begin a loaf of bread.
It was also exciting the night we had our celebration pizza party, which was right before the book’s weekend premier at University Center. The expressions on the kids’ faces were amazing when they saw how Art & International Productions had taken the breads they had made and turned it into a real, glamorous book! The kids just glowed and carefully turned each page, looking to see what their effort, as well as new friends, had created.
4. Do you see this book as strengthening the bonds between parents and children? If so, in what ways?
Bread machines and bread dough are adaptable uniquely to Special Education. Children with disabilities love the tactile nature of the dough, the flavor of the fresh bread, and working with the brilliant colors. A ninth grade Family and Consumer Science teacher reported that she witnessed an outstanding level of performance from a child with Down syndrome when the bread machine and Electric Bread for Kids were involved.
One of my most magical moments was leading a two-hour hands-on experience for the Cook Center for Development in Manhattan, NY. Fourteen children with special needs stayed "in focus" for two hours! They helped start a loaf of bread (the whole group helped count the cups, etc.), they each made a Snowflake (fine motor skill development) and they made art from colored dough (they had to tell me what color they wanted from the tray.) In the meantime, they thought they were playing with and eating fresh, nutritious bread! Based on our company’s experience with Electric Bread for Kids and children with disabilities, I have every reason to believe that the book has the ability to bring a "Special Family" together in ways never before imagined.
5. Did you learn anything new or surprising about the capabilities of children during the production of this book?
Absolutely! Kids relate to the bread machine as a computer that makes bread. They show respect for the equipment and they follow instructions exactly. Adults relate to the bread machine as just another appliance, like a coffee maker or a toaster. Kids expect technology to leverage food preparation. It makes no sense to them to knead dough and make a mess when technology can deliver perfect, smooth dough with such little clean up!
6. This is a beautiful book and you should be very proud of it! Would you describe your feelings about being a key person in making it happen?
Initially I was excited about the role I was playing to bring the staff, children, and resources together to produce a "First." That feeling evolved into being proud of my role in the development of a book that changes lives for the better.
I thought never for one moment, "Ann was in charge." This project has had a special force behind it since the first day at Martin’s party. I did not make it happen, I merely held it together as it rolled and pulled and moved forward.