Former U.S. Marine Aaron Edwards kept a class of seventh-graders on the edge of their seats Friday, not with accounts of fighting in the Middle East but anecdotes about cooking meals for a regiment.
Edwards, 25, is a former Marine cook and now a culinary student at Mountwest Community and Technical College. He visited Verity Middle School to give a cooking demonstration to the food class there.
While Edwards diced a pork butt and vegetables, students peppered him with questions about the Marines, his travels while he was in the service, and dishes he had made and eaten.
He saw combat and lost friends, but didn’t dwell on that. Instead, he talked about life in a military kitchen.
He has cooked thousands of pounds of steak at a time to feed hungry troops, spent days as part of a team making a ceremonial cake for a Marine Corps birthday celebration only to watch in dejection as its frosting melted under the searing midday sun, eaten he world’s best pizza, made in an applewood-fired oven in Turkey, explored the world’s largest mall in Dubai and invented a recipe for mouth-watering burgers on a biscuit in five minutes.
He told all those stories and expounded on his love for chicken without missing a chop or dropping a fragment of onion.
By the time class was over, the pork was simmering away and the students were well-grounded in cutting techniques, kitchen safety and sanitation, use of herbs, the best way to buy tenderloin and the importance of fat in maintaining flavor.
“Everything he referred to they’ve discussed in class,” said Susie Gullett, who teaches family consumer science at Verity. What is more, she said, her students are certain to remember what Edwards said because his status as a former serviceman adds credibility to his presentation.
Gullett invited Edwards to school at the suggestion of his father Eric, who works for the district. Edwards grew up in South Point, graduated from the Collins Career Center vocational school and joined the Marines in 2007.
Cooking was his second choice of specialization but with no military police positions available he found himself fixing meals for hundreds every day.
That wasn’t a bad thing for one who started learning to cook before he was 10 and always loved it. “I love that down-home feeling you get when you cook your own meal, and it lifts your spirits when you serve food to someone and they say it’s good,” he said.
Once he adds a business degree to his culinary arts degree, Edwards plans to open a restaurant and name it Messhall USA. It will specialize in hearty, stick-to-the-ribs dishes and will be his culinary tribute to the armed forces.
Gullett believes Edwards’ visit will boost her enrollment numbers when her students tell their friends about it. “I guarantee you that’s all they will be talking about tonight,” she said.
The biscuit burger recipe can be found on the food.com website; type biscuit burger into the search box and Edwards’ recipe is the first recipe listed.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.