Monday, January 30, 2012

The Ho Hum...

School had been progressing fine all morning.  Since Christmas break we'd been purring along at a nice steady pace. Everyday, hitting our marks, chalking up day after day and week after week of math, science, grammar, history etc. Learning was happening, but...

...homeschool can get a little ho hum in the winter's gray. 

Not dull and boring, mind you. 

Learning about Catherine the Great and Napoleon and dipping our collective toes into a bit of physics could never be boring. Yet, the ho hum does creep in upon us as it was threatening to do that afternoon.

The skies had been overloaded with clouds and soaking rain, completely absent was even the slightest glimmer of sunshine. The ho hum thrives on damp cloud-filled days and this day, the ho hum had just about declared victory when into our homeschoolin' afternoon waltzed the lowly potato...

Time seemed to be galumphing along when my thoughts turned to dinner. Hamburgers, ho hum, hardly a blog-able feast. We usually serve baked sweet potato fries with our burgers, but I was almost out of those. Grabbing a large bag of russets, I washed six or seven and decided to feed them through the food processor thinking to fry them for a cozy ketchup-laden side dish. Unfortunately, the processor's blade turned out to be a very thin one and my potato slices were more like potato chips...hmmmmm.

The child reciting poetry to me as I was potato processing noticed the chip-like shape of our potatoes and the light bulb lit over both of us simultaneously.

"Let's roast 'em on really high heat with oil and salt."

"Yea, like potato chips!"

While placing our pre-chips in a big bowl of cold water, I asked someone to look up how to bake potato chips. Meg, who was working on her math was happy to comply. While looking up the instructions, her brother and I fixed a test batch and popped them into the oven.  Meg read us directions that helped us to hone our craft a bit AND she found directions for microwaving chips.

Soon we were chip crazy, testing the exact times necessary to bake our chips for the width that they had been sliced, dreaming up crazy seasoning possibilities, and using every kitchen tool we owned to see which really met our chip needs.

In the process, Meg also found a very interesting video about how potato chips are manufactured {here} and began shouting out details like...
"Did you know that the average potato yields about 36 chips?"
"Wow, those industrial potato peelers can peel 12,000 pounds of potatoes per hour!"

Meanwhile, Cole was prepping the next batch for the oven.

We learned that chips did best when thoroughly dried before they are coated with olive oil and salt. Using a clean dish towel Cole placed slices in a single layer and added another towel to the top and pressed and  pressed until little moisture was left on the potatoes.

We also learned that only a few at a time can be placed on the pan so that the chips don't steam each other and yield a soggy mass o'potatoes instead of crisp ones.

Soon we had it down to a science.

Did someone say science

Soak in water to prevent browning (or oxidation), then dry, 

oil and season, 

bake for 5 minutes at about 400˚, turn pan in oven and bake for three more minutes, 
remove from oven, place on cooling rack, 
add a little more salt if needed, 
eat enough so that when the next batch comes out of the oven 
there is enough room on the cooling rack, repeat.

We think that these are very best right out of the oven. If they get cold (none of ours lasted long enough to get too cold!) just reheat in a 400˚ oven for a few minutes to re-crisp.

Perhaps the very best lesson we learned, is that while it is important to know the formula for the mechanical advantage of a lever {I know I use it everyday...wink}, it is equally important to know how to have fun and do some experimenting in the kitchen {I actually do use this skill most everyday!}. 

The kitchen-warmed oven, the sense of discovery, the cooperation of classmates, the quick gratification of eating food crafted by our own hands and minds...

 ...the ho-hum didn't even stand a chance!

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