How It All Started

Bob Phillips

The title of this blog was inspired by one of my Spanish professor's at Miami University of Ohio, Dr. Robert Phillips, who died in the e...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Class of Ambition

Each spring semester, I teach a course called Geographic Frameworks for future teachers of geography. I treat the course as an adventure in learning how to find geographic lessons in just about any context. To help keep variety in the course year to year, connect the students to the broader community, and ensure some depth in the conversation, I usually build the course around the current selection of the One Book One Community program that takes place twice each year in our town and campus.

This semester, the book chosen is Ben Hewitt's The Town that Food Saved, about efforts to promote local and regional food in a northern Vermont town. The book itself would not really be suitable for the students these future teachers hope to work with -- mainly elementary -- but it explores many interesting aspects of the geography of food that are ideal for teaching students of any age.

In our conversations about how we would involve children in lessons about their connections to food, the idea of preparing food with students has been a recurring theme, so we decided to try it as a class. Fortunately, the class is small and -- more importantly -- has great camaraderie. So I was willing to suggest bringing the entire class of five to our house to prepare a meal together. (It is also fortunate that Pam had already undertaken something similar with a larger group in the winter -- they ended up creating an entire blog about the experience at Como Agua Para Chocolate Recetas

Since our class meets only twice a week and since we put this plan together rather hastily, menu planning was not as integral as it probably should have been. I did bring in a few of our many cook books for some preliminary discussion. We identified a few kind of dishes we were interested in trying, and figured out foods we needed to avoid. But in the end, I hastily chose three dishes, consulting a bit with Pam. The students then arrived a bit ahead of the official 3:20 start time and stayed a bit past the 4:35 end time, so that we prepared and enjoyed the meal in about two hours.

The students arrived with a mix of nerves and curiosity, and a range of cooking experience. We started with popcorn from Hanson Farm (an ear of corn, microwaved in a paper bag), and then got to work. Every student jumped right in to the process, however, dividing up to concentrate on the three recipes I had chosen -- a warm pasta salad, a grilled-cheese sandwich, and a frittata. I mainly provided tips on where to find things, and answered a few how-to questions along the way. Each dish ended up having one or two students who focused on it, but students also helped with other dishes, especially as some required a bit more time than others. Over all, though, the timing of the meal worked out amazingly well!

The recipe for Pasta Salad with Grilled Marinaded Chicken and Sugar Snap Peas comes from 365 Ways to Cook Pasta, which followers of this blog will recognize as a favorite stand-by in this house, though we had not tried this recipe before. This book must have the longest titles of any cookbook we own -- more an ingredient list than a title! The delicious grilled cheese is The Wisconsinite (in honor of our Cheese Head cousins) from grilled cheese, please!, another new recipe from one of our household standards. We found the frittata recipe in the Brockton Enterprise, our regional daily newspaper that is a remarkably good source of recipes.

(Note: My students are not fuzzy, though my camera phone is!)

The Wisconsonite grilled-cheese sandwich includes Colby cheese (the recipe calls for this plus blue cheese, but we all agreed to skip the latter) and a blend of cranberry sauce and Dijon mustard. Marbled-rye and shredded cheese were used, to delicious effect!
The frittata was a bit unusual, calling for a base made of potatoes. The Gruyere  cheese  was tart, contrasting with the smoked ham and asparagus.
The pasta salad called for pasta, marinated chicken strips, and steamed pea pods. We used pea pods from last year's CSA -- the last bit was in the freezer -- and hormone-free chicken from Paula Dean (of all people). Reading the recipe this morning,, I could see that the marinating process was a potential bottleneck, so I prepared that part of the meal ahead of the students' arrival. That one piece being completed allowed for the entire meal to come together at roughly the same time, though the frittata took a bit longer than the other two dishes.
The result: Some good lessons about teaching and cooking ... and a very satisfying meal. In fact, the students were so full that they refused the offer of dessert from nearby Peaceful Meadows.


Just before the students arrived for the meal, I noticed this photo online -- sorry, no location or citation at this time -- and I offer this colorful "tire farm" as a lagniappe to the students who participated. The week before, they had enjoyed the many varieties of small gardens that appear at the end of the delightful film Truck Farm.

No comments:

Post a Comment