Children love to experiment with new things growing up.
Not often would you find a child learning to make a dish with dasheen.
For Deja Frank that's just what she did.
She is in Grade 1 at the Little Jewels Early Childhood Centre.
Her father Derrick Frank told Newsday Kids the school has an exceptional online programme, which helped Deja unlock her love for food and encouraged her to take part in her first virtual food competition.
During this year’s virtual celebration of Tobago’s Blue Food Festival in October, the public was invited to submit a short video recreating a blue food dish.
Deja’s teachers saw this as the perfect opportunity for her to get some exposure to show off her culinary skills to the country.
The Blue Food idea was planned by the school to coincide with the festival. Parents were asked to read stories, watch videos and take their children to the garden to learn all about dasheen as they prepared for the big day where each student had to present a dish made from dasheen for their show-and-tell segment. Deja had several choices like dasheen pancake and dasheen dumpling but decided to make a punch.
With the help of her mother, Deja recreated her own dasheen punch using a blend of essence, ice, spices, milk, paw paw, and colourful sprinkles for presentation.
At just four years old, Deja’s assertive and expressive personality grabs the attention of an audience when she enters a room.
This boldness was very noticeable during an interview at her Mason Hall home.
In a conversation about her special punch recipe she said, “It tastes good and I put sprinkle on the bowl and throw it on the glass, I throw the dasheen in there and I throw all the ingredients in there with my milk and water. I blend it up and throw it in mummy glass. Mummy (video) tape it to show my auntie and everybody like it. I like that.”
The one-minute video showing Deja making the punch, dressed in her white chef apron and hat, attracted over 100,000 views and garnered 200 comments after it was published on the Tobago Festivals Facebook page on October 22.
People commended little Deja for her bravery, confidence and cooking expertise.
She said she had fun being a part of the competition and even though she didn’t qualify for the final round she said this is only the beginning of her exciting food journey.
Deja recently started school and has described online learning as exciting, fun and engaging. Still, she can’t wait when face-to-face classes are allowed to resume for all children so that she can have new experiences and make her first group of lifelong friends.
Dèja enjoys cooking with her family, dancing, modelling and singing.
“I like to eat cornflakes and milk and watch TV. I like to help mummy cook dumplings and dasheen, put my brother to sleep. My favourite part is eating it all.”
In her spare time, she plays with her brother.
“I like to draw a sun. My brother doesn’t help because he’s two. All he does is drink tea in his bottle.”
Deja said before she can decide what career path, she first wants to have a good character.
“I want to be a good person when I grow up. I am four and then I’ll be five so I can keep cooking and be a cook to cook dasheen for everyone.”
Asked who is the better cook she said, “Mummy because she does it nicer.”
Her father said Deja 's success is a combination between both parents and the school. “Parental support is the secret coupled with a good online programme.
“Academics is important, yes, but this school ensures that our children develop holistically. We must commend this school for its rich legacy as the aunties have taken this school to another level on the virtual platform.”