June 7 was a pretty exciting day for my 7-year-old daughter Jillian as it marked the last day of the school year. And, like any other seven-year-old, Jillian was anxious to embrace all the spoils that come with summer vacation: going to swimming lessons and art camp, play dates with her best pals and even visiting her cousins in Minnesota to celebrate Independence Day.

What Jillian did not know at the time, however, was that her mom and I had attended an end-of-the-year conference with her teacher and, like the parents of all of her classmates, we received a thick packet of worksheets she had to complete during the summer months. It's still not clear to me who was more disappointed: the student who has to do the work or the parent.

Much like Jillian I believed I was getting a reprieve from helping with homework for the summer. Because when I was a boy, there was no summertime homework. Heck, as a first grader I don't recall having any homework at all, for that matter. After looking back at some of my old report cards that my mother "thoughtfully" gave me not that long ago, though, perhaps some summer homework would have been a good idea.

You see, most educators feel that by quitting reading, writing and arithmetic cold turkey for the summer, students tend to lose some of what they learn during the course of the school year. As a result, teachers spend the first part of the next school year helping students recoup some of that lost knowledge. It soon became apparent that pouting was pointless and it is time to embrace the concept of continual learning.

Such is the case in the foodservice industry, specifically when it comes to maintaining your product knowledge. For example, at The NAFEM Show this past February there were hundreds of product categories alone, never mind the number of products in each segment. Keeping your product knowledge base current remains a tall task for even the most seasoned professional. That's where FE&S' biennial Product Knowledge Guide comes into play.

This document can serve as an introductory tool for those just entering the industry and as a refresher for foodservice industry veterans. While the premise for each piece of equipment remains the same — meaning fryers still fry, ovens bake and refrigerators keep things cold — the way they go about fulfilling their functional roles continues to evolve.

The products listed there represent the ones that you, our readers, told us you were most likely to specify or purchase this year. In preparing these articles we enlisted the expertise of several members of the Foodservice Consultants Society International-The Americas Division who offered their take on specifying some of these key equipment and supply items. As for the actual text, the articles feature more bulleted content to make this a quicker yet very informative read.

So consider this your own foodservice equipment and supplies summer reading program and have at it. You never know what you might learn.