Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Magic Of Field Trips

Education doesn't only happen in a classroom. More often than not, a fun outing can lead to learning, especially for kinesthetic learners. And, if you choose your trip field well, it can also lead to ice cream! 

A few years ago, my children and I were lucky enough to witness the ice cream making process from beginning to end. Zany Zeus in Wellington is more than an ice cream factory and parlour. That’s because the owner, Mike, is very focused on educating his customers about the ice cream making process. “I did a degree in food science,” Mike says, “yet I never saw how to make ice cream until I started my own factory.” This is why his shop has a ceiling-to-floor window looking straight into the factory where the magic happens. And magic it is indeed. From ingredients as simple as organic milk, skim milk powder, sugar, stabilisers and frozen boysenberries, Mike and his assistant John (who jokes he pays money to come to work and make ice cream every day) can whip up boysenberry ice cream in as little as fifteen minutes. But first, the laws of food hygiene have to be observed. Anybody who steps into the ice cream factory has to wear a hair net, an overall apron, and gumboots. They must also wash their hands like a surgeon. “It’s because harmful bacteria can grow rapidly in the ice cream mixture,” Mike explains.

Once the ice cream makers are scrubbed clean, the fun begins. Mike and John work as a team to blend the ice cream ingredients into a uniform mixture, achieving the most amazing colours: pale green for pistachio ice cream, pink for boysenberry ice cream, brown for chocolate. “Nothing artificial,” Mike assures us as he pours the big bucket of ice cream mixture into the churning machine. “If we can’t achieve the flavour or colour we want using natural ingredients, we simply don’t make that ice cream.”

The churning process takes 10 minutes at -3 to -6 degrees Centigrade and you can see the liquid ice cream turn solid before your eyes. When Mike scoops it out of the machine into plastic containers, I get a taste. Amazingly, the pistachio ice cream tastes of pistachios, and the chocolate ice cream is a chocolaty as you can get. All of them are incredibly smooth and creamy, and, like John, I’d happily pay to work here every day.

The last part of the process is freezing the ice cream for an hour in an industrial fridge at a whopping -30 degrees! In a world where children sometimes don’t know that apples come from trees, factories like Zany Zeus are a boon. “Once you see the ice cream made,” Mike says, “you know where it comes from.”

(Is your child a kinesthetic learner? Find out.)

The visit to Zany Zeus made us think about ice cream and Google additional questions.

·        Q: What are the different types of ice cream?

·        A: Gelato, sorbet, sugar-free, dairy-free.

·        Q: When was ice cream invented?

·        A: Over two thousand years ago, in the Persian Empire. They didn’t use milk.

·        Q: What’s the weirdest ice cream ever?

·        A: Turkish ice cream - it stretches like chewing gum and is so chewable you can eat it with a knife and fork!

·        Q: The weirdest flavour?

·        A: Garlic!

·        Q: What is Centigrade?

·        A: A scale on which to measure temperature. Water freezes at zero.

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