I have a few lab spaces connected to my classroom. One of which is a foods lab equipped with a walk-in cooler. It was 3 days before I needed to start a brat processing lab and 7 days before the school wide homecoming brat sale and the cooler broke. Panic.

To properly thaw the 40+ pounds of meat needed to make the brats for an all-school brat sale takes a few days. The cooler broke on a Thursday so, I had Friday to re-arrange the perishable items that were hastily crammed into the classroom refrigerator to make room for the 40 lbs of meat. At the end of the day on Friday I went into the refrigerator only to discover that the students had valued the Sun Drop soda as worthy enough to be kept cold.  So with the soda out and a few very empty bottles of ketchup removed the meat managed to fit in the refrigerator.

It wasn’t soon enough. On Monday the meat was still solid as a rock. The clock was ticking because usually it takes a few class periods to make bratwurst. Day one cube meat, day two grind and season, day 3 grind a second time and stuff, and day 4 package. So, with a brat sale on Thursday and the meat solid as a rock on Monday was not the best situation.

On Tuesday the meat must have gotten colder because it was still just as hard as it was on Monday. The class pushed forward. Cubing the frozen meat was not the easiest but it did work. The meat grinders at the school are from the early 1990s or even older. They are high powered and can grind just about whatever is put down through them. However, the smallest error in setting up the grinder makes the worst day ever for preparing meat. As a surprise to the end of the day the cooler service tech arrived and a small valve was responsible for the cooler’s shutdown. Just as a precaution though it was recommended that all non-perishable food items be kept out of the cooler for a few days if the problem returns.

Wednesday, students continued to cube and grind meat. It was a day that I had some students in for a study hall the hour after my foods class and a few of the students in that study hall have made brats in my classes before so I recruited them to season and regrind the meat. By the end of the study hall period about 25 lbs of meat was made into brats. It was a feat only accomplished with one of my summer school classes. Still with 25 lbs and a sale coming up it wasn’t enough. After school I was sanitizing the lab for another round of making brats. I had about 17 lbs of meat left to process that I just got off the scale when one of my students texted asking if I was still planning on making brats after school. I replied that I was in the middle of making the brats and he showed up in 5 min and we got to work. In about 1 hour we had the brats finished. It was a great relief from the panic week of homecoming.

At the brat sale all of the fresh brats were grilled up and sold. Wednesday night at the bottom of the chest freezer a few dozen frozen brats were found as backups. Great reviews for the food all around.

Panic can come in so many forms as a teacher. A broken cooler is now just another day in the life of an Agriculture Teacher.



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