Saturday, September 12, 2009

Classroom Cuisine

Last week my 10th grade English class at YES Prep started our Melting Pot Cookbook in which we’ll compile various recipes from our studies in World Literature. Since we started with Latin America, it was easy for my mostly Hispanic students to track down a family recipe and write an imagery-laden paragraph describing the dish. Yesterday they brought in several of the selections so we could triple-check that their writing measures up with their cooking -- and vice versa.

Well before school, students poured into my classroom to leave huge trays of homemade delicacies: enchiladas, tamales, caldo, quesadillas, empanadas, gorditas, pupusas, arroz con leche, churros, and chocoflan. Wow, holy heck, and goodness me. My students impress me [almost] daily, but this display was beyond belief.

One chica waltzed into class well into first period, a basket of empanadas slung over her wrist like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. She reported that her mother had started the meat at midnight, and that the two of them had risen at 4am to begin the assemblage. How could I give her a tardy when she brought us -- hands down -- the best empanadas I’ve ever tasted, hot out of the oven? With homemade hot sauce and a gorgeous writing selection to boot. [Swoon]

Pastes, I learned, are savory wheat pastries filled with meat and potatoes, native to the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. Another student gracefully wrote about her early childhood in Ixmiquilpan, where she and her mom stopped at a tiny pastes shop every Monday after buying groceries. She may be lightyears away from her home state now, but her family’s pastes recipe always gives her a warm and memory-filled taste of her far away youth.

From Gabriel and his caldo to Tamale Brenda to Jose and his first experience making gorditas with mom, each student had a story to gush. I only hope that they “get” the embedded memory, language, and cultural significance of food when we virtually travel to India during out next unit. Onward!


Leigh Anne Rayburn said...

Nom nom nom. Thank you for sharing those empanadas -- indeed the best I've ever had.

Eileen said...

I saw those recipe copies on the printer and wondered who was behind it. I should have guessed it was the amazing students in Ms. Johnson's class!

Ann said...

I think that it is impt that they read Proust next; Rememberances of Things Past should cement your point. Secondly, this would be a good experience to highlight in a college essay or interview.

James said...

Wow, Ruthie. What a thoughtful, well-organized project. I'm excited to see some of those recipes and try them out. Great job with this.

alison said...

ruthie, this is so stinkin cool! :)

Genie said...

Amazing. Empanada chica impressed me with her Colombian empanadas (I caught her on the way to my class from the staff lounge :))