Food/Cooking/Sustainability crash course
January 28, 2013 6:58 AM   Subscribe

I may have an opportunity to teach a ten week class to ninth graders about food, cooking, and sustainability. These are topics that interest me and that I pursue in my spare time, but I'm realizing I don't know as much as I thought I did-- what books, resources, concepts do I need to study in order to get a real grasp on this so I can teach it well?

The class will have access to a garden and a teaching kitchen. The content of the course is largely up to me. I've read the Omnivore's Dilemma and looked at Alice Waters' Edible Schoolyard website. What else should I do to prepare? What content should I be sure to include in the course?
posted by bonheur to Education (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Norman Borlaug Biography (1:06:46)
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation.

Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century?
posted by Blasdelb at 7:03 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This is a hunch, but I think sustainability maybe should be a smallish portion - not because it's not important, but unless you've got a classful of kids who are really seriously gung-ho into food to the point that they've got an after-school grass-roots club going or something, trying to get deep into sustainability without getting deep into food first is gonna be like trying to teach them trigonometry before you've taught them long division.

A lot of class discussion about cooking habits at home may be good. Who cooks dinner? Mom? Dad? Or Colonel Sanders? What was their favorite meal as a kid? What is it now? Do they know where food comes from?

Or: how much is wasted from whatever they eat? (As in - if they only eat chicken breasts, investigate how much is left over from the chicken that they're not eating.) And as a result, how many chickens have to die to feed them? And how would that change if they decided that okay, fine, they'd have dark meat too? And how about using chicken feet and bones to make soup?

An idea for an experiment (if you have access to a kitchen) - pick a couple of convenience foods, and track down the from-scratch recipes for those same foods. Half the class makes it one way, half the other way; you time them. See who gets done first. Compare the results. (I am toying with starting a food blog, and this is forsure one of the things I'll be doing - comparing how long it takes to make actual beef stroganoff with how long it takes to make Hamburger Helper beef stroganoff, because this "timesaving step" takes almost exactly the same amount of time as making it from scratch, and so....what's the point?)

You know? Introduce them to food and cooking first because they may be thinking about this for the first time, and then hit them with sustainability.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:16 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and discussions of the food pyramid/plate/whateverthehey it is these days, but then going on to address actual portion size. You know? People got all bogged down in how they were expected to try to have five "servings" of fruit a day and were all 'FOR SERIOUS THAT'S WAY TOO MUCH FRUIT WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO EAT AN ENTIRE ORCHARD EVERY DAY', but didn't know that a "serving" of fruit is, like, half an apple.

Hey, that's another idea - deconstruct something like a Big Mac to see how many "servings" of various foodstuffs you can get out of it. Or, have everyone deconstruct their own lunches.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:55 AM on January 28, 2013

Response by poster: Bonus question: I need a descriptive and appealing title for the class. Any ideas?
posted by bonheur at 4:25 PM on January 28, 2013

Foodshare in Toronto has some excellent food educator resources aimed at kids of all ages.

Seconding "Introduce them to food and cooking first" and then sustainability. Get them interested in where there food comes from.
posted by asparagrass at 5:26 AM on January 31, 2013

I suck at titles; sorry.

If you're really dealing with novice cooks, a good thing to start with recipe-wise is soup. It's hard to fuck up soup, and it is infinitely adaptable to whatever ingredients you've got.

Hey, that's another idea - have each kid bring in a pound of any vegetable they choose, and a quart of either veggie or chicken broth. Then walk them through making soup out of it - "okay - first, whatever you got, chop it. Then dump that and the stock into a pot, and add a little salt. Now let it boil. Okay, now that it's soft, we can puree it. Now taste it and add more salt or pepper if you want."

And then when they're done, then point out to them that hey, look -- everyone used the exact same recipe, but we still got [n] different kinds of soup out of it just by changing the vegetable. So that means you guys know how to make [n] different kinds of soup now. Better yet - you know how to do something with any kind of vegetable out there.

That may be a good springboard into sustainability, by starting with the "eat what's in season" concept - point out that so now that they can make soup out of ANY vegetable, they can think of grocery shopping as a sort of "okay, what's cheap and fresh, I'll do something with it" rather than "I specifically need peas" or something. And why might that be a good thing, kids?....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:54 AM on January 31, 2013

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