Wednesday, September 3, 2014

World Wisdom with Weaver: "What's Cookin' Good Lookin?" #TeachAg #Global

Growing up Italian means that food is not just what you eat. It's an entity unto itself, almost like a silent but ever-present family member. Cooking for others is how you show love, make a point, bring about change. Some of my earliest memories involve my Grandma Betty pulling a chair over to the stove and letting 4-year-old me help stir the pot of sauce or my Granny Franny showing me how to mix and bake the perfect batch of biscotti. If you come to my house, I will work tirelessly to prepare a meal to show you how welcome you are and how happy we are to have you.

But, this isn't unique to myself or my family. I know many of you have the same experiences and I'm sure across the globe this is a shared experience. Food brings people together. It inspires, starts conversation, creates memories and allows people to bond.

Food is also a great way to engage students!

Recently, on UpWorthy (@UpWorthy) I came across a great article that showcased the weekly food purchases and consumption of a typical family in various countries (Meet 7 Families). I found myself studying each photo, finding similarities and differences to my own family and what we eat, and trying to think of the different dishes they might make from those items. The photo at right is from the article and shows a family from Vavuniya, Sri Lanka.

How could you utilize this article in your classroom?
  • Have students bring in a list or create a collage of the foods their family purchases for a week and compare and contrast it with one of the photos from the article.
  • In groups, students could take on the role of one of these families and, using the ingredients shown, create a weekly menu of meals for their "family." 
  • Engage in a class discussion to compare the different families and discuss the similarities and differences in vegetable and meat consumption, natural and processed foods, and portions for each family member.
  • In various specialized classes you could use this to discuss American or Western Agriculture to foreign agriculture (Livestock production in US vs. Africa, Monocropping vs. Polycropping, Import and Export policies of various countries, Trade Unions and how the affect global agriculture markets). 
  • (My Favorite) COOK THE FOOD!!
On NPR (I listen to NPR whenever I'm in the car, puts my son to sleep like a dream!) a few days ago I heard an interview with an author named Mark Kurlansky (@codlansky). He is the author of 26 books that mostly revolve around food. His latest book "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" was co-written with his daughter, Talia. When she was young, they brought out a globe, spun it and stuck their finger on randomly.  Where that finger landed determined their next meal. They would research the country and find a dish that was commonly eaten there. From that tradition sprang this cookbook. How cool would it be to work with your FCS department and create a cross-discipline learning experience?!  Team your students with students from a cooking class and have them choose a recipe from this book and research the country, the ingredients, and the cultural background of the dish. Then make it and share what they learned - and created - with the class! 

Food is not my only motivator...I also love to devour books and I know that encouraging reading in schools is always a challenge. Does your school have a literacy initiative? Mark Kurlansky has also written some pretty cool books about the history of food consumption and how food is made and used. How about "Salt: A World History?" It talks about how salt is used across cultures and time. "The Food of a Younger Land" is a nonfiction book that delves into the history of early 20th century food and is "a portrait of American food - before the national highway system, before chain restaurants, and before frozen food, when the nation's food was seasonal, regional, and traditional." These are just a few of his books and, honestly, just one resource for providing students with a text; author John Reader wrote a book on the history of the potato; and how about "The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage. 

What I'm trying to say in this blog is that teaching a global lesson can be as easy as opening the fridge or the cover of a book. Food is a common denominator in all homes and a great way for students to begin to see how other people live. It's also a way for them to see how food and agriculture has shaped society. Have fun with one of these lessons and please share what you've done. If you decide to go the cooking route, I'd LOVE to come and partake!

Agriculturally Yours,

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