Food for ThoughtPosted by George Seferidis
Seventh-grade humanities class figuratively travels around the globe to delve into culture and current events. We learn about other peoples through literature, history, art, and film, but sometimes, we seek understanding through a somewhat unlikely curricular source–food. Food is a medium, a nourishing social art, which invites others to experience a culture through a language of flavors and a palate of aromas. We celebrate with food; we heal with food. Our students recognized this while reading I Lived on Butterfly Hill, a coming-of-age novel set in an allegorical depiction of Pinochet’s rise to power in Chile. Throughout the novel, the protagonist, Celeste, lyrically revels in the power of food. Of her grandmother’s journey to Chile as a WWII refugee, she learns, “Abuela suffers from an illness called nostalgia, which is often cured with a sprinkle of love, some lemon, a few raisins, and many slices of avocado.” The contrast of flavors and textures triggers sensations, awakens memory, alerts us to the present, and quite literally keeps us full.
As Celeste matures in her own journey as a refugee in Maine, she finds the strength to persevere through writing, reading, and preparing the comfort food of her culture, sharing them with her newfound friends. Celeste shares the food of her culture as both a celebration of difference and connection. Following Celeste’s example, seventh-graders collaborated with our kitchen staff to research and design the school’s lunch menu last Friday, sharing the knowledge during this unit. Chef David and Chef Jessica, always open to student collaboration in the kitchen, visited our humanities class sharing items and culinary knowledge with our seventh-graders. Each seventh-grader presented a salad, main dish, soup, side, and dessert, sharing their research and rationale. Our chefs selected recipes from student presentations and prepared them for our school lunch. Before we ate, seventh-graders introduced the meal to their peers and faculty. We were impressed with our student appetites for knowledge and understanding. Their presentations were emblematic of their appreciation of the novel and the history of Chile. We learned that food is a universal element that blurs the borders that we create between cultures.
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