For this week’s Gastro Friday, I wanted to reflect on my first two weeks teaching gastronomy to high schoolers.
The most important lesson I learned from my two weeks of classes is that I am officially old. I must be. Because at the ripe old age of 28, I have already forgotten what it is like to be a teenager, even though I vowed I wouldn’t. Especially the part where they laugh at anything that reminds them remotely of sex or drugs. I should have known that–hell, I was ONE of those kids (and still sort of am!). Woe be to me, the one who chose to have them read candy reviews out loud on lollipops (who could write a lollipop review without using sucking” repeatedly?!) and candy bars with nuts. NUTS. I walked right into that one. But it wasn’t all jokes about how big the nuts were in a Snickers bar (although that particular joke did enjoy a long life). Here is a bit more detail on what I did, and my thoughts on teaching high schoolers gastronomy. The first week was an intro to food studies, and I wanted to get across a few ideas to my classes. 1)Food has more meanings tied to it than just something we eat to survive, 2)Chicago is a huge food town and 3)the basics of describing what you eat. The first I accomplished with a lecture, and the second by making them watch the Chicago episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain, because I love him and I wanted to expose them to a wide variety of local food (from gourmet hot dogs to molecular gastronomy). Finally, I had them taste four kinds of candy (I tried to pick candy with different flavors and textures) and brainstorm descriptive words for the candy before writing a short piece on their favorite kind of candy. The best part of this class was how excited they got over molecular gastronomy. The show featured Moto, with chef Homaro Cantu and his edible menus and liquid nitrogen. They were so excited to see such a fun form of cooking, and that was really refreshing to see, as I was worried it might have been too complex to understand.
For the second week, we discussed the pancake. This week, my focus was on the history and foodway of the pancake, showing the impact of this food within popular culture, and finally, making pancakes. After my lecture, they watched the episode about pancakes from Good Eats, the cooking show by Alton Brown. This was a great episode to watch because it not only talked about how to make pancake (and your own pancake mix), but it also discussed pans and equipment needed, and the process of making maple syrup, which I felt gave the class a well-rounded understanding of all the work needed to eat pancakes. Finally, I had the kids do a bit of food writing on their favorite pancake memory while I made them pancakes. For the first class, I tried to make the pancakes myself, but my burner was a bit crappy, and this took forever and was boring for the kids. In the second class, I let the kids take over the cooking with some help from myself. Not all the kids wanted to cook, but those that did were enthusiastic and so excited to be able to make food for the class to eat. It was also fun watching them cook, so I will have to remember that for future class, as well as buy a better cooking burner so I don’t have to hold the class later just to eat.
I knew the kids would get excited about eating pancakes in class because, duh, any food in school is exciting to a kid. But I was really surprised at how food brought a few kids out of their shell. Kids who normally sit in the back of class and make jokes instead of paying attention were suddenly coming up to me to share their favorite pancake memory, or the first time they tried to make pancakes. These kids who last week could barely look me in eye when I said hello were suddenly excited to learn (and eat), and we were able to connect on another level. Food is truly the one thing everyone in the world has in common! More to come–next week is hamburger week! ~LTG!