Day 1: What is Food?
We made vegetarian burritos. They turned out great, and we all ate well. With the leftovers I dropped off 10 wrapped burritos to the Kettle Society. It was great to meet them. We discussed “What is Food” today in class, and the conversation went well. We came to the conclusion that we eat out, order in, and microwave because it is both easy and convenient. We will look at how to avoid doing this as we move forward in the future.
I went over the importance of safety in the kitchen, with food, and in general. We also discussed the basic rules of respect and courtesy in a learning environment.
I discovered that the allergies are minimal in this class: cocoa powder.
The dislikes are: pineapple, mango, corn, garlic, onion, chocolate, cheese, and beets.
The favourites are crab cakes, fruit, sushi, tuna sandwiches.
When I asked “what is food to you?” the responses I got were:
“You are what you eat” “Anything edible” “Something that tastes good”
“Something that smells good and is colourful”
“What we eat to survive and be healthy”
“We eat food in order to feel good”
“We can live to eat, or eat to live”
The class is interested in making the following:
– Potato gratin
– Pizza from scratch
– Crab cakes
– Sugar free desserts
We played the name game, paired with a food that we like starting with the same letter of first name, e.g. My name is Eric and I like edamame.
I went over the syllabus (course outline), talked about Food Rules and read a bit to them, watched the introduction to Food Inc., brought attention to the food posters, books, magazines, and other resources in the room, and finally provided a brief lecture focusing on definitions and a general overview of the different areas that are affected by food.
The journal question today was: What is the importance of food in your life and to others?
The challenges of this first day, among many, were:
– Water was shutoff in that section of the school for one month
– Funding still hasn’t arrived, and I could not get in contact with community partner
– I was nervous because I get nervous at times like this
– It was such a new experience for me, them, and the course
– Time management was a constant challenge, but it worked out well in the end
Overall, this first day was a huge success! Everyone seemed comfortable with introductions and we made a delicious (and nutritious) meal that we enjoyed and then shared with the community!
Day 2: History of Food
Second day of the course … the original 5 students showed up, and a new student also joined us! This was great because Kim (our community partner) also stopped by, allowing us to cook in 4 teams of 2. We made a quinoa salad with arugula, watermelon, blueberries, sunflower seeds, peppers, basil, cucumber … so many super foods! We also baked a huge filet of sockeye salmon. We set the table with placemats today and sat as a group to eat lunch. It was really nice!
Our morning discussion was based around how much food has changed over time due to technology, globalization, and so forth. I asked them to compare this with the massive change that has happened with telephones, the internet, and such in the past 20 years. We also talked about current events involving the drought that is taking place in both Eastern Canada and Western Africa. We highlighted the differences between these two places, especially related to storing food.
We discussed the history of both quinoa and salmon, and the relationship that Aboriginal people have with them in South America and the Pacific Northwest, respectively. We brought up the role that colonialism has had on these, but also mentioned how there is a sort of reversal in who is dictating who should eat what kind of food, as we move more toward trying to eat from a more traditional diet.
The topic today was the “History of Food”. We talked about what was first cultivated where, and did this while enjoying medjool dates and watermelon and talking about their origins in Africa and Mesopotamia. There was good discussion about why we do or do not like history.
The videos that we watched were interesting. One went around the world showing the origin of food staples. The other showed salmon returning to spawn but facing grizzly bears.
At the end of class we walked over to the garden. We hit the jackpot with Ian Marcuse from the Grandview Woodland Food Connection there to give us a tour and a sample of many vegetables and such. After class I dropped off the leftovers to the Kettle Society. Again, they were very grateful.
The challenges of finances, water being shutoff, lack of students, and such were mostly ameliorated by this time. This was not only refreshing, but hugely important in order for us to move forward.
The journal question asked students how much they think that food will change in the future.
Day 3: Food Safety
This was our “Food Safety” day. I was pleased (and a bit surprised) to notice how interested the students were in this topic. We went over the BC Food Safe manuals, and I photocopied a 16-page portion of the two books that are most pertinent to the chef at home, etc. We discussed these in two small groups. I also went over a few notes on Powerpoint, and we even watched a few comical video clips to represent the importance of food safe. We had a brief discussion about food poisoning, and how to avoid it.
The day started off with some photocopying and then a quick errand for vinegar and leftover wrapping materials. Then I met one of our volunteers, Diane, who is a second year LFS student from UBC. She was very helpful today, and fit in quite well.
When the students arrived we had a brief discussion about what we ate last night. It was fantastic to hear that one student attempted making sushi, and although failed, was amazing for trying. Another tried to make kale chips and had great success. More success than I had later that day in fact.
We walked to the garden and clipped some purple and green kale from plants and then went to Uprising Breads Bakery and purchased 3 loaves of goodness from this 30 year running all natural bakery. I showed them where our leftovers were going each day. They were very interested in this.
Back at the school we talked briefly about what we were going to make (egg salad sandwiches with pickles, scallions, celery, and topped with sprouts; kale chips on the side). We counted off and then formed 4 new pairs of two. Together we all cooked the eggs, chopped the rest, and then sat together and enjoyed lunch. We talked about speaking other languages and such.
After cleaning up, we managed to make about 12 egg salad sandwiches to bring to the Kettle Society. I gave a brief lecture on sprouts, kale, and eggs. They were quite interested in this. Afterward we did the food safe thing.
At the end of the day we talked about what to do with the Food Rules book that I handed out to everyone. (It was awesome how the students smelled the book and said that they love the smell of new books). Too cool! We then came up with some ideas for the next two days meals. At the end we walked over to the Kettle Society and offered the food and met Chris. The students really liked this.
Day 4: Cooking Basics
Where to begin? This is a topic that has taken me 20 years to just begin to learn, and now to teach it to 6 teenagers in 4 hours? Well, it went better than anticipated. I biked to the school with at least 100 lb of groceries hanging from my rat trap. Once there I walked over to Drive Organics, and then did some photocopying. My colleague, Mitra, suggested that I have a class of 15 students stop by and join us for a day per week. I am not sure about this, as it is quite different from what we have going on right now. We will see how it evolves.
I met one of the other volunteers, Stacy, just before the class started. She did very well today, and incidentally also knows Diane, who volunteered yesterday. They each had a unique way of offering knowledge and enthusiasm to the class. I feel very grateful to have these volunteers. Although it is only 6 students, it is enough to keep me occupied while we are cooking. Three students shared a rule from Food Rules: 1. Eat slowly. 2. Don’t eat it if it comes through a window. 3. Don’t eat it if a third grader cannot pronounce its ingredients.
All six students were on time, and although a bit slow to start, brought a lot of energy and curiosity to the class. I appreciated hearing that they realized how ‘spinach pasta’ is actually tricking the consumer into believing that it is very good for you. We talked about the various angles of selection of local and in season product by tasting an apricot, honey plum, European plum, and even a sour transparent apple.
I delivered the lecture earlier today, as it was good to get this out of the way. We watched a number of videos, such as a scene from Julie and Julia, and also some of Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver. We talked about the history of Pasta, and its different types. We then looked at parsley, and sea asparagus, and watched a short clip about watercress, which would have made our pasta healthier. Later on, we went over scallops, shrimp, and prawns and discussed ocean wise in action. We also went over kitchen tools, techniques, and terminology.
After a break we divided into 3 groups to make a rich Alfredo pasta sauce with varying ingredients such as: mushrooms, tarragon, dill, parsley, cherry tomatoes, sea asparagus, lemon zest, cream, butter, cream cheese, grana padana, and spices. We also baked a baguette (warmed it up) and at this with oil and balsamic. After eating at the table, we cleaned up and went over how to marinate chicken and tofu. We placed this in the fridge, and then dismissed class. I delivered the pasta and bread to the Kettle Society, and the manager and I discussed our visit the day before.
I biked home, purchasing only a couple ingredients. Now I am busy at work on the next day’s lecture.
Day 5: Knife Skills
Today was challenging, but it should have been. I spent the class teaching the 6 students how to use different knives for different jobs. I was really impressed with the progress that each of them demonstrated, not to mention the fact that they all went home band-aid free.
I took the bus in the morning and arrived nice and early. After setting up my things, I decided to rearrange the room to allow us to have a horseshoe shape setup in order for the students to see me as I demonstrated the different cutting techniques. Following this I did some photocopying and made my way to Drive Organics to buy produce. The purple cauliflower was breathtakingly beautiful. It appeared vibrant and refreshing.
At the beginning of class we discussed the day’s agenda, then for discussion talked about the attributes involved in becoming good with a knife: patience, focus, dedication, etc. We also talked about the multi-tasking component from yesterday’s class. I handed out some forms on using kitchen knives. The powerpoint I gave today was actually very engaging. Some of the videos were entertaining.
Time was the biggest challenge today. The students did not finish eating until precisely 3pm. They helped a bit with cleanup, but I insisted that they go home and enjoy the weekend. It is after all their summer holiday. I worked quickly to put the tables back, wash every single dish in the home economics room, wash laundry, bring compost to the garden, pack my things for the weekend, and then bring the leftover food to the Kettle Society. When I stopped by today I had to tell them how to put the food into the fridge safely to avoid pathogens. I then went home by bus, absolutely exhausted, but with a huge feeling of accomplishment and gratitude.
We discussed so many topics today, in an entirely hands-on manner. Teamwork was absolutely incredible, and the students also were proud of their accomplishments.
We learned how to chop: broccoli, cauliflower, onions, garlic, carrots, bok choi, cabbage, mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, and many other varieties. We had 20 different vegetables in our stir-fry, along with free-range chicken, tofu, and toasted black sesame seeds. Delicious and nutritious!
Day 6: Food Rules
Today was a blast! We had 11 of us making the classic French omelette. (I should type ‘trying to make’, but everyone did so well). Incredibly impressed with the way that the students are progressing and increasing their comfort in the kitchen. I arrived (after 4 hours of sleep) at Britannia right at 8:30. After rearranging the room, and putting things away, I prepped the day. This included the usual: photocopying, tidying, prepping ingredients, and reviewing the lesson plan.
At 10:00 am, Kiki and Emily from UBC CLI/Trek came down and met with me. Kim soon arrived also. We all discussed the program, its sustainability, its current feasibility, its challenges, and successes. Diane soon joined us. This time went by quickly, and soon all 6 students had returned for another week of learning about food.
We went around and did the name game (so much fun). Later we talked about what we ate on the weekend, and what we tried to make. I was impressed to learn that one student’s successfully made sushi, and another ceviche. This is inspiring. After this I introduced the Food Rules themes from the book. We talked briefly about organic, slow food, and local food.
Then, I talked about Free Run, Free Range, White, Brown, etc. eggs. We watched a good video on this after playing show and tell with Rabbit River farms. We talked about the salad that we were going to make, and I handed out the recipe. We learned about purslane, shallots, edible flowers, zucchini blossoms, and so forth.
We then put all the lettuces on the table and quickly talked about them. We realized that this was not eating your colours, but certainly each of them has health benefits. I mentioned that these were bought at the Farmer’s market. I handed out information on that as I talked about quotes and Food Rules for the day in my preliminary power point. The greens were: zucchini blossoms, curly kale, swiss chard, watercress, radicchio, basil, Italian parsley, curly parsley, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce (Boston bibb), dill, and such…
Each student worked with a different adult in making the salad (washing, rinsing, drying). They then made a salad dressing (raspberry vinaigrette). I handed out the omelette filling ingredients, and they chose what they wanted and how much. After prepping these, we gathered at the demo table where I showed them how to make the ‘perfect’ French omelette. I got lucky as it turned out great. They excitedly went back into their pairs and each made a masterpiece.
We sat around the table and had good discussion over the delicious and healthy lunch. Then, we cleaned up and met again for a lesson. I went over Food Rules, the organic movement, the role of corn in the food industry, and also about Slow Food, and that we can vote with our fork. We watched great documentaries about these topics. At the end of the day we discussed whether organic was good, and its future place in 20 years.
Day 7: Canada’s Food Guide (Nutrition)
Today the lecture / class on Nutrition and Canada’s Food Guide was engaging and actually quite good. I went early to class, on my makeshift cargo bike. After photocopying, setting up the room, and prepping the lecture, I just went at my own pace.
Stacy arrived first, then the students slowly showed up just before 11. We sat around the table and talked about nutrition. “What did you eat last night?” “Was it nutritious?” We then went around and talked about what good nutrition means to them. I introduced them to the Canada Food Guide, handed these out, then went over the history of it. Why it was created in 1942, and so forth. We talked about what was going on in our society then and now.
After briefly discussing the food groups, we went to the counter and I asked them to place the ingredients into sections according to the Food Guide. We then worked together to make a big pot of beef and barley soup. (I had made a vegetable stock earlier that morning). The students were very responsive to this activity, and actually enjoyed themselves as they went about this. In no time we had the soup simmering, and waiting game began.
I talked about the different Food Guides in the North, in the US, and throughout the world. We then looked at a list of good foods and bad foods to eat. Following this we read a handout about nutrition, micronutrients, and so forth.
As the day progressed, we kept focusing on lunch, but still were in lecture mode. This seemed to be going well. I showed them a few of my favourite books that work as great reference to find information on food.
Just before we ate, I spoke about ethical meat, then showed videos on that, along with a couple of others. “Food Matters” (which they really enjoyed), was first up. Then, Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk, which they thought was great. Meanwhile, I had to remove the soup into smaller saucepans, as it was burning in the big pot.
We sat at the table and enjoyed the bland, but nutritious (and comforting). We ate plain yogurt with fresh blueberries for dessert. Later on, we cleaned up, and that was it.
When I went to the Kettle Society I was met with great enthusiasm. I walked back to the school with my buckets / Tupperware. Home now, soon off to buy groceries for tomorrow. Oh yes, I also visited 8 Sushi restaurants today to get menus and discuss tomorrow which one to visit.
Day 8: Molecular Gastronomy
Today was absolutely epic! The weather was great also. I biked to the school with way too much stuff (at least 100 pounds in my panniers). I setup the room, went and bought kale and cinnamon, and got my photocopying out of the way.
Back in the classroom I made myself a French omelette (my new favourite dish) and boiled the chickpeas. After prepping the class, Diane showed up early, and we discussed the day. It was going to be a cooking marathon: Blueberry yogurt popsicles, kale chips, hors d’oeuvres, orzo Greek salad, and cashew apple spice cookies.
The students arrived and I introduced them to the world of Molecular Gastronomy. We did not actually manipulate food to that degree, but it was super cool to see what we could come up with in one afternoon. They were each keen to keep busy in the kitchen.
After making the popsicles together as a class, we broke up into 2 groups of 4 and went to work. I am so completely impressed by how well they each worked together. They were active, interested, and especially skilled. Every dish turned out great, except for the popsicles that would not budge (not frozen yet).
After eating the delicious salad together, we cleaned up and then sat to watch the world’s best chefs from the world’s best restaurants make molecular gastronomic dishes. We nibbled on cookies and drank green tea while doing so.
After the students were dismissed, I emptied the compost at the garden, and dropped off orzo salad and cookies to our friends at the Kettle Society!
I then booked at table for 8 at 12:30 tomorrow at Kishimoto. The students helped me decide what we will eat tomorrow. After that I went to buy bus tickets at Safeway. Great day…I can see the sustainability of this project already in progress!
Day 9: Reading Labels
Today was a remarkable success! I had a lot of fun. The highlights were all involving the evidence of how much each of these students has learned about food, our society, critical thinking, geography, and cooking in the past 2 weeks. There were ample opportunities that I realized how much this program is working. Already.
In the morning I went in a little late today, as I had less to prepare. I photocopied and chatted with some of the staff. Afterward, I cleaned the classroom and got it ready for the lecture. A couple students started to arrive and then two new students joined our class. We were now near our goal of 10 students, with a total of 9.
Once everyone arrived I welcomed them to enjoy their popsicles. These were a hit. We introduced April and Peter to the class. The students were a bit taken aback with the newcomers, but by the end of class, all was good. The discussion revolved around: What is important to you when buying groceries? (Taste, appearance, cost, ethics, convenience, local, organic, etc. … or organized, clean, friendly stores).
After a brief presentation on reading labels and grocery stores, we set out on a walk in the gorgeous 30 degree weather. Thor joined us today, and it was good to have him there, especially for the support as we walked along the ‘Drive’. Our first stop was Daily Catch, where we asked questions and learned about fishes. It was pretty cool to see their reaction to the fish and the place where we buy our seafood from.
Next was the sushi stop; Kishimoto. We sat at a table, all 10 of us, and I basically ordered for everyone, except that I allowed them each to select a nigiri. The place was great, and the students really appreciated it. When the food came (platters of it all fancy) they were pretty impressed. I had to laugh when one student ate the entire edamame and said that it was a bit dry and rough. Too funny. We ate enough food for all of us, which was just within my budget.
Afterward we had so much time remaining that we took it easy and slowly walked to Safeway. Outside I asked them which was their favourite choice. This was all over the map. Then we slowed down at a fruit market and I pointed out where the fruit was coming from, and talked about different varieties of produce. I also pointed out Donald’s. On the way I talked about how much transportation (skytrain or car) affects both the environment and one’s shopping choices.
Inside Safeway we walked around for an hour where I gave an interpretive tour about food, the industrial food complex, ingredients, labels, marketing, and such. At the end I had them each select food for under $5 and we donated all of this to the Food Bank. Great day! Great week!
Day 10: Fast Food Nation
Today was definitely a Monday. I was away all weekend, so getting home late last night made preparations for today a challenge. It was a good thing that I managed to buy groceries and do a lot of tasks on Thursday evening before I went away. Anyhow, we had a new students join us today, and one of our 9 is away for the week on a road trip. It was a slow start for everyone. We first waited for everyone to arrive, then I went over the plan for the day.
In the discussion we talked about what we ate on the weekend. I told them about the Indian smoked salmon up at Strathcona, but they had some impressive tales themselves. One student made butter chicken, and another attempted to make ice cream. Nicely done! We then went on to talk about fast food and why we eat it. Initially the reason is inexpensive, convenient, and easy. After some thought, we concluded that it is also due to the triple-threat: sugar, fat, and salt.
I went on to read from various publications and show various slides. The time was speeding up, and sleepiness was coming over these students, so we went on to prepare food. This day we made Caesar salad with croutons and dressing from scratch. We also made personal pita pizzas with a wide range of vegetarian toppings. These were a huge success! After eating lunch together we attempted to make a blueberry crumble (in season) together before 3pm. We managed to prepare it, but it was still in the oven when some students had to leave.
Thus, only some of us stayed back to enjoy one of the four crumbles. After cleaning up, I walked with Thor to the Kettle Society to drop off 6 pizzas, a huge tub of Caesar salad, and a blueberry crumble. I then proceeded to buy seafood at the daily catch, and went home. Soon I made my way to buy low to purchase the ingredients for tomorrow’s class.
Day 11: Food In The Media
Today was spectacular! I brought more food today than I likely have all course. On my rat trap I had 2 panniers full of groceries, and then a 3 L tin of olive oil strapped to the top. I arrived at Britannia nice and early (8:30 AM). Good timing allowed me to get into the office and photocopy the material for the day. Then I went to the classroom and setup for the day.
Once 9:30 arrived I stepped outside to the beautiful day and managed to buy the groceries that I require for the next 3 days. (Except for a cheese platter, that is). This entailed going to Drive Organics, the newspaper stand, Santa Barbara Market, another fruit stand, and finally to Daily Catch. I bought mussels there, but again was disappointed with the quality, as nearly half of them did not open.
Back at the school I managed to open the door just as Diane arrived. I put away the groceries and setup for the day. By 11:00 all except one student had arrived. We sat down and had discussion about the media and food. Following this, we got right into preparing lunch.
First we made a cucumber, watermelon, mint, lemonade from scratch. This was both delicious and refreshing, as it cools one down. One group strained theirs, while the other left it pulpy, one could say. These were put into the fridge, and then we moved on to the next recipe. Bouillabaisse. This was delicious! I separated the ingredients, and in groups of 4 the students demonstrated their ability to follow the recipe, use cooking techniques, ask good questions, and show an understanding of ingredients, health, and issues related to food.
After adding the fish and mussels, we heated up the blueberry crumble, and then sat down to the set table to enjoy lunch. It was evident how happy the students each were today with what they had prepared.
Abby arrived at 2pm and delivered a presentation on the media. She joined us at the table, and then showed a couple clips and lead a discussion and analysis. Her presentation was excellent, and the students really learned a great deal from her. At 3pm we cleaned up, and then walked to the Kettle Society. Afterward I went to the market to purchase fresh fruit and veggies!
Day 12: Marketing of Food
Today started differently than usual. I biked to the school without 100 lb of groceries, but instead with simply a bunch of celery. I arrived early and managed to put away the dishes in good time (there were heaps of them). On my way in I went to the office and photocopied the material for the day. The focus was on the marketing of food, which is tied in with yesterday’s topic of the media.
I washed laundry, sanitized sinks and counters, and then setup my material and the food for the day ahead. It was a busy day of communicating with people regarding various different matters. Before the day begun, I snuck out to Drive Organics for some quinoa, cilantro, parsley, and brown paper bags. I also bought a bag of “Way Better” tortilla chips to use as a marketing example.
Just before class I noticed that the wild rice was supposed to soak overnight. Oops. This was the beginning of a few challenges in the kitchen today. I attempted to cook this wild rice in a pressure cooker, but to no avail, it did not work. I sent Thor out to buy some brown rice and we used this for our salad. We made a udon noodle chicken salad. This was tasty, but only after the sambal and other condiments. It was a bit of a flop as a recipe to be honest. It was cool to see this in the students both while preparing it, and then when eating. We also made a grain salad for our lunch tomorrow at UBC farm. In addition, we made tuna sandwiches with ocean wise, local tuna. The students then washed a piece of fruit and assembled their lunches in paper bags and placed them in the fridge.
We did not get to the popsicles due to having too few moulds. We ate the honeydew melon as such instead. Joining us today was Zoe McKnight from the Vancouver Sun. She observed the class for a bit more than an hour, and then went around and spoke with the students. It was pretty cool to have her in the class. She also arranged for a photographer to stop by. Jason did so at about 1:00pm. It was pretty cool to see him in the class, as I’m sure the students thought it was pretty cool.
We sat down to eat, then cleaned up, and at last I gave a more comprehensive lecture on marketing. In the morning I went over the key daily newspapers, and also a magazine. During this I spoke about the ads and who they were targeting. Later in the afternoon I showed a few videos which conveyed the seriousness of this whole problem of targeting children with sugar, fat, and sodium products through enormously large marketing budgets. The class ended with the garbage patch in the ocean discussion, and also talking about recycling and why it is critical for us to drink tap water instead of bottled.
After class I stopped by the Kettle Society. Then I biked to the farmers market to buy apple chips and some fresh produce. Following this I went to Army Navy for some supplies. I lastly went to Opus to purchase the materials to create the zine for the course. Then I went to Chapters and bought a final copy of “Food Rules.” Overall, this was a solid day.
Day 13: Urban Agriculture
We went to the UBC farm. The farm that is owned by the University of British Columbia, but is actually on Musqueam land. We talked about this while Megan took us all on a tour. It was a great turnout today, with 8 students, a volunteer, Kim (the community partner) and two people who she brought that have just recently moved to Canada.
In the morning I setup the room for the next day and did some photocopying. Then I emptied the compost and went to the bakery for a quick breakfast. Afterward, I met the class in 102 and was delighted that each of them was on time. We walked (in the hot day) to Clarke where we waited for bus #22. It is a busy street that Clarke. On the bus we traveled down to 49th where we boarded bus #49. Some students ate sandwiches while we traveled to UBC. Once we arrived at Westbrook mall, we walked toward the farm amidst the enormous amount of construction. It was nice to have some discussion about land use development and the changing layout of the area where UBC Farm sits. I lead the group past the entrance, so we had to back track. When we finally arrived, no joke, they were paving all the way to the exact entrance of the farm. Unbelievable how much this has changed in the past 10 years!
Kim, her guests, and the guide were waiting for us. This was cool to see that Megan, our volunteer, I had met in the past while volunteering at the farm. After introductions we sat in the field and had a picnic of tuna sandwiches, quinoa edamame salad, and fresh BC fruit. We then put on sunscreen and started the tour. We looked at the apple orchards, the chicken pens (that are moved routinely to allow for grass to grow), the blueberry rows (that have predator poles), the Mayan Garden (with the 3 sisters – corn, beans, and squash), the children’s garden (with tonnes of nasturtiums), the cob shelter, the First Nations garden (with the most gentle looking devil’s club I have ever seen), the practicum garden, the forest walk (with great douglas fir and cedar trees), and finally to the market stand.
The students each seemed to really enjoy this experience. I challenged them to each ask one question of the guide, and most of them did, at least once. The students are all incredibly polite, attentive, interested, and even energetic. For this I am grateful, as are many others I am sure.
A few students returned with Kim, and the rest of us took two buses back to the school in the sweltering heat. A swim was in order, but did not happen. Back at Britannia I cleaned up the room, gathered my things, and made my way home while stopping at Daily Catch, Donald’s, and another store on the way.
Day 14: Food Writing (Zine Creation)
Today was a lot of fun, with a most beautiful cheese and meat tray to appetize the students who were present. There were only 6 students in attendance today, but this was for good reason on the part of those who were absent. I biked to school nice and early to setup the classroom. I did laundry and cleaned the room for the weekend (long weekend once again). After photocopying (which resulted in nearly breaking the machine), I went to the Santa Barbara market to buy some last minute ingredients for our day.
Back at the room I setup the blenders (finally got access to these), and the food for our menu. I then focused on finishing my Powerpoint on zine making, food writing, and the menu items. When the students arrived we first had a discussion about what we each enjoyed about the farm yesterday (forest walk, chickens, apple orchard, being away from the city, etc.). We then talked about the creative process and why people might want to write about, or read about, food. I brought attention to various articles, books, and resources related to agriculture and farming before going on to the day’s agenda.
We first made popsicles. This time we learned to cut cantaloupe, dragon fruit, pineapple, and mango. We placed all of these ingredients into popsicle moulds (along with honey and coconut milk). Unfortunately these did not freeze in time for the students to enjoy them in the afternoon (it was sweltering hot again today). We then moved on to Gazpacho (from scratch). They worked hard to follow the ingredients, and I must say, they made the most refreshing and delicious batch of the chilled Spanish tomato soup! (To my surprise they didn’t care for it, but that is not too uncommon I guess).
We then moved on to our cheese and meat platters. Krystle had joined us in the mean time, and she helped with this. There was a lot of preparation before building these. Once it was done, the class split in two teams and each constructed a platter. These turned out beautifully! We all sat down to enjoy lunch, and was it ever delicious.
Krystle then took over and taught the class about drawing (food especially). The each sat with a piece of sketch paper and pens, markers, charcoal, etc. to make a creation for our zine. We have an idea to create a zine as a resource for people in Vancouver to access healthy, affordable food, and also learn a thing or two about skills in the kitchen, and most of all, about issues related to food geography, history, sociology, economics, and so forth.
At the end of this day, the students went home, another successful week. Krystle and I had a lot of cleanup to do, but managed to get this done in no time. I then went home and started the weekend of relaxation, and just now am getting to the course again. (I’ll be honest though, I miss it even after two days!).
Day 15: Basics of Etiquette
Today was the first day of the week, after a long weekend of sunshine, swimming, and brainstorming about the course. I made my way to Britannia nice and early again. Upon arrival I witnessed that the paving of the parking lot was both right next to our classroom, and in full swing. I put away the dishes and cleaned the classroom.
Then I went and finished my photocopying for the previous week’s class on agriculture and also for today’s etiquette class. Avelino was to meet me at 9:30, but he was running late, and then somehow misunderstood my direction to meet at Britannia. He had gone to UBC instead. He did arrive, just in time, and managed to wow the students with his knowledge, enthusiasm, and charm.
While waiting for the students and him to arrive I made some phone calls to the PNE and managed to setup the ingredients for the day. I had missed breakfast, so I went to uprising breads for a couple pastries and a fresh juice. Back at the classroom the students began to arrive.
We had discussion about what was exciting on the weekend. When there was little to report from the students, it pleased me to know that they are enthusiastic about this class. I introduced Avelino and we got right into talking about what is etiquette. The students were intrigued when we used this in a metaphorical sense. We talked about customs and rules both at home and out in public, and also both here in Vancouver and around the world.
Before too long we started to prepare lunch. Avelino took this on as well. I believe that he enjoyed having so many eyes on him while he demonstrated the techniques and ingredients. He and the students managed to prepare a delicious lunch of Coho salmon (pan seared), sautéed local fava beans, English peas, snap peas, and heirloom carrots, and punched potatoes (new nuggets from Pemberton). This was all prepared using only salt, pepper, olive oil, and a smidge of fresh tarragon.
After it was ready, the students took turns helping Avelino plate the meal in a professional fashion. When we sat down to eat the plates looked marvellous. We sat together and enjoyed this upscale lunch. Avelino talked about his twitter account (he photographs and tweets about everything that he eats). He also talked about his work at Bishop’s and Vancouver Club. (He incidentally served Prime Minister Harper yesterday).
We offered him a fresh popsicle on his way out, and the students gave him a round of applause in gratitude. We then assembled the food for the Kettle Society, cleaned up, and had a popsicle ourselves. Afterward the students left, and I did my regular errands. I did not have to buy ingredients today, nor plan a meal. I did, however, have to get ahead and focus on Thursday’s class because I will be away kayaking tomorrow evening and will not be able to prepare. Also, Thursday’s class is crucial as it discusses the connection between Poverty and Food.
Day 16: Fine Dining
Today was a huge success. And, I’ll confess, I was quite nervous about taking the class to Le Crocodile for a number of reasons (downtown, expensive, uppity, atmosphere, logistics, rich food, etc.). I am grateful for them to have had this experience because it allowed them to experience a meal in a way that they likely will not very often (I can count on my hand how many times I have had a lunch like this). Also, it is terrific for them to think critically about the food and price of such in this setting. Is it necessary? Is it ethical in a world where 1 billion people are hungry?
In the morning we had discussion about Fine Dining. I enjoyed telling them the insides and outs of the fine dining restaurant industry. We placed Le Crocodile in a good light for its simply the result of Owner/Chef Michel Jacob wanting to create in Vancouver the superb dining experience that he contributed to in his native country France. We talked about elitism and pretentiousness, but also about the amount of effort and control that goes into such a dining room.
After 12 noon, with all 9 students present (and the volunteer a no-show) we turned out the lights and walked toward the bus stop on Clarke. It eventually arrived and took us downtown to the IGA near the Sutton Place Hotel. We were perfectly on time, exactly 5 minutes early. We entered the restaurant and sat at a nice table set for 11 people on the banquette. Once Kim arrived, we moved ahead with our meal.
The students were all so cooperative, yet remained true to their personalities, not appearing uncomfortable at all. The server came by and told us about the features, then we took some time with the menus trying to decide what to order. I provided them with a maximum spending amount, and allowed them to order anything they like under that price (this way they can all see and try different items).
After ordering, we were given an amuse bouche; a mushroom tart, which was decadent. Then, we received bread and butter, also delicious. The first course arrived for a few, and the rest of us shared the crab cake, escargot, and an onion tart. These were quite popular amongst the students. It was a while between courses because we had to wait for everyone to finish (the students demonstrated the etiquette skills that Avelino taught the class yesterday). The second course arrived, with portions much larger than can be imagined. The students were excited, some more than others, but everyone finished what was on their plate.
After lunch, Kim left to make an appointment. The 10 of us were then given a palate cleanser; pear sorbet, which was refreshing. Then, 2 students left to make the bus back to school (volleyball practice). We all were given a tour of the kitchen, where Frank enthusiastically engaged the students into the life of a French chef. It was remarkable how energetic and enlightening this was. When we returned to the table there were chocolate crocodiles on the plate.
I then paid the bill (much less expensive than I had imagined) and we were on our way back to the school. We dropped off students on the way as they passed their stops. Back at Britannia I had to find Mitra to get back into my classroom in order to get my things.
Day 17: Poverty and Food
Today was by far the most challenging day for me of this course so far. The main reason for this was that because I was at a volunteer event kayaking the night before, I was up late preparing for the class. This unfortunately caused me to have a migraine headache in the afternoon, which caused me some discomfort. All in all, though, this day was an immense success. The topic was also challenging, but I was not surprised by this, as it is challenging to talk about these issues that resonate with most people in the way that poverty and hunger do.
We had a discussion going over the experience at Le Crocodile. It was fantastic to hear the students admit that they could probably make what they had at the restaurant with a little more experience. We then assessed how the lunch cost $30/person, and today’s lunch was going to cost $0.50/person. This caught their attention. We went over how much each of the ingredients cost (lentils, brown rice, coconut milk, kale, garam masala, onion, garlic).
After discussion I showed a lengthy (and a bit disorganized) slideshow on poverty from the global scale all the way to the very neighbourhood scale of where we are as a class. By using videos, commercials, graphs, charts, statistics, and metaphors, I felt that I was able to get the ideas across about the following themes: social inequality, economic inequality, absolute poverty, relative poverty, systemic poverty, hunger, starvation, malnutrition, undernourishment, cost of housing, welfare, cost of living, and so forth.
The students admitted how challenging it is to see people hungry and not be able to do something about it. We talked about ways that we can; give to the food bank, ask the government to help, treat others with respect, share food, and many more.
When the time came to make lunch we split into 3 groups of 2. I also made lunch today, as it was only 6 students and myself. I went over the instructions, and really, they were on their own. I was impressed with how positive they were about making this lunch. It turned out deliciously, and we all enjoyed eating this meal of kale, brown rice, and lentils.
I also showed the students how to make fool-proof popcorn using a method of popping 3 kernels first, then adding the remaining kernels, setting off the stove for 30 seconds, and then popping all of them almost instantly. This was our snack, along with fresh pineapple.
We had about 50 extra servings remaining, and brought these to the Kettle Friendship Society with great intention.
Day 18: Resourcefulness 101
Today was definitely a display of resourcefulness amongst the students. I was so thrilled to see that all 9 of the students showed up on this sunny Friday to participate in the class (one of whom rescheduled a shift at work in order to attend). The idea was to make the transition from yesterday’s Poverty and Food class to discussing ways to prevent, or at least minimise the challenges of eating a healthy diet on a limited, or nonexistent, budget.
We started off with discussion about what it means to be resourceful. Diane was present as a volunteer, and was helpful in this part, and throughout the class. Students gave examples of making more with less, not wasting food, understanding substitutions, and so forth. I handed out a photocopied packet outlining various different examples and helpful hints when it comes to being resourceful with food.
I took the next 30 minutes to go through the Powerpoint lecture of the day. In this we went over definitions, examples, and the various resources that are available in Vancouver, to name a few. I also showed them reports and documents that highlight these as well. I skipped the videos today in order to allow for more time with hands-on cooking.
The recipe(s) that I handed out were fore granola and lasagne. The idea was for the students to make an abundance of these two recipes and take home each of these to share with their family, or whomever they choose. After going over the basic instructions, they formed 3 different groups of 3 and went to work. I was truly impressed with their ability to multi-task, be organized, and even enjoy themselves. Most of all, this was beyond impressive when I sampled the lasagne that they made. Delicious!
We simultaneously set the table and heated some foccacia. Diane made a fresh salad, while I blended a balsamic vinaigrette. Both were terrific. While the lasagne was baking, the students made their batches of granola, so that when we removed the lasagne from the oven, the granola took its place. Of course, we then sat down to enjoy this well- rounded lunch together. I also cut up a watermelon and placed the slices on the table. (Earlier in the morning I had carved the world, or globe, out of this watermelon).
After eating the students took initiative and cleaned their plates, washed the dishes, and put the chairs up. They each thanked me for the day as they walked out the door with a loaf pan full of lasagne, and a Ziploc full of granola. I am proud of them.
With the leftovers of each, I walked over to the Kettle Friendship Society and donated this food. I will certainly miss many aspects of this course, one of which is sharing food with the enthusiastic folk at the Kettle Society. Following this I biked home and got started on the next week’s material, as it is the final week, with much to do.
Day 19: Global Perspective
Today was a good test for my mettle as a future teacher. Nothing went the way that I had planned. Oh well. Adapt. Move on. This is the lesson that I learned firsthand today without getting discouraged or frustrated. It was a challenge at times, but overall I believed in the class, and they believed in me. I guess that today was one of the ways that this summer project will help prepare me for the reality of teaching that awaits me in my future. By this I mean that things don’t always go the way that we want them. In teaching this course there is an enormous amount of planning, organization, and scheduling involved. When something is off from this, it can become challenging. Well, today, everything was off. I am grateful to say that this did not affect me in any negative way at all. If anything it added to the class because we as a group managed to adapt and overcome these obstacles.
Details. When I arrived at the school this morning the doors were locked. With the 7 bags that I brought in a taxi (literally too many for my bike and panniers) I waddled to the other side of the school (nearly throwing out my back). At that door, the same thing, locked. I was aware that things would be changing with the school with many of the programs ending the week prior, but I was not aware of locked doors. Soon enough I saw one of the engineers who informed me that the power had been shutoff since 4:00 AM. They were aware of this, but me, on this Monday morning with fridge seeking food did not.
I waited for one of the higher ups to let me in, and went to my classroom to do all that I could without power. (This was surprisingly a lot). I managed to get my errands done at the grocery stores (last minute ingredients and a coffee). When I returned to the school, and phoned Mitra to let me in again, I went back to the room and waited for Jonathan, the photographer, to arrive. We discussed the course and the purpose of his visit. Soon enough students started to arrive (looking confused about the lack of lighting).
We all were together at the table talking about the week prior and about food around the world. The topic of the day was global perspectives, and we had fun with this. I challenged the term ‘ethnic food,’ and also made the hypothesis that even pizza is an ethnic food. It was really great to talk about the native food of North America, the Pacific Northwest, and even right here in Vancouver. I also talked about different ways of looking at the world and its communities. (At one point we challenged national borders to look at First Nations traditional boundaries).
Due to lack of power we walked to Santa Barbara market to purchase food for the food bank later in the week. I gave each student $12 to spend on non-perishables. When we arrived they went in subgroups and wandered the aisled making decisions (based largely on the many things we had learned this year). I could not help but notice that Jonathan was taking a tonne of photographs, which is something I am not used to being the subject of. (Usually the other way around). We gathered at the front of the store to talk about the experience, and I could see in their faces that they felt good about what they were doing.
Back at the school we made Pad Thai and bubble tea. Neither turned out too well, especially not the bubble tea, which was a good joke. Yes, the power was turned back on at 12:30. I delivered a lecture for 30 minutes, then we got cooking. Stacy instructed one group while I worked with the other. It took some time, but the Pad thai turned out actually quite nicely. We sat down and enjoyed this together. The bubble tea, on the other hand, was a failure. I thought the tapioca pearls were supposed to remain white in the centre, but was instructed that this was not the case at all. We cooked them all afternoon and still they were not ready.
At the end of class the students left while Stacy and I remained behind and did a good amount of dishes. I soon left and went to the Kettle Society with Pad Thai. Then I went home gradually, stopping at the bank at Cambie on the way. I also went to Whole Foods to purchase the next day’s ingredients. Back at home I worked well into the night, as I had too much to do. Great day though!
Day 20: Local Food Movement
Today we had the pleasure of sharing the afternoon with Bonita Magee from FarmFolk CityFolk. She spoke for upwards of 45 minutes about the local food movement in Vancouver and where it is heading. She managed to use illustrations from around the world, which were extremely thought provoking and interesting for the students to comprehend the importance of healthy eating (healthy in all methods of the 5-capitals model). At the end of her discussion the students were excited and mesmerized about the possibilities that await them in their future and relationship with food. I thanked Bonita, and so did she us for the experience to engage with the students.
One of the highlights of this course has been to reach out and connect with people and resources (around food) throughout Vancouver. This excites me about my future in education and community work, as I feel that this tendency to work with others will remain a critical component of my teaching method.
In the morning I arrived by bicycle with a couple baguettes decorating my panniers. I put things away in the classroom and went to do some photocopying. I have been enjoying the routine that I have in Room 102 and in the Britannia community at large. Back at the classroom I prepared my lecture, and then baked 4 loaves of banana bread (2 with, and 2 without, chocolate chips).
When the students arrived they were surprised to see that I had been baking without them. I assured them that this was for their benefit, as I owed them breakfast after making them stay late the day prior. Diane was with us today as well, and has been an immense help with this program throughout the summer. The students really enjoy having the volunteers present, and so do I.
We had discussion about the hilarity of me leading the bubble tea lesson. (We managed to cook the boba throughout the day and enjoy this at the end of the afternoon). I talked about local food resources in Vancouver and had a fun Powerpoint to illustrate this. We talked about what we eat that is local. Later on we made a beautiful summer salad, and a vibrant bruschetta recipe.
At the table we sat down and enjoyed these healthy and simple summer dishes. Bonita arrived and delivered her presentation as we were getting into the bubble tea. We sat and listened to her talk together. At the end there was just a bit of cleanup to be done. Diane and I walked by the Kettle Society. I then went to the Daily Catch and Pasture to Plate to purchase ingredients for the last day (I had empowered the students to decide what we would eat on the final cooking day of the course). I also stopped by Donald’s (I love that store).
Day 21: Ecological Footprint
Ecological Footprint … this brings me back to so many experiences in my personal life (college, UBC, sustainability ambassador, endless arguments with family and friends, working at Zerofootprint). I was excited about today, as there are so many things to celebrate! (Birthdays, last cooking day – which is sad, but a huge accomplishment, and Bill Rees joining us).
I biked to the school nice and early with my usual mule-kart full of goodies. The doors were unlocked all the way to my classroom. I started to put things away, cleanup, put up balloons, write on the chalkboard, put dishes away, and so forth. I also started prepping my gigantic zucchini, which I was about to stuff with lamb and rice (bought it on the weekend at the market and had no idea what to do with it now). I then went and did some photocopying and got myself some breakfast. I tried to find a print shop, but had no success until later in the day after class.
Back at the classroom some of the students arrived early, and I had them fill out a card for the birthday girls. Once everyone had arrived I got right into discussion about what the ecological footprint is. As a group we each completed a ecological footprint activity (survey) and had a good laugh, but also rude awakening, about what causes the increase in burden to the planet. This was the ideal springboard for me to talk about the way that food is intertwined into this dilemma and framework.
We then broke into two groups to bake cupcakes and make tacos. I kept to myself with the giant zucchini. The two teams worked well together and managed to bake cupcakes that are SOOO delicious! We managed to get the tacos prepared just in time for Dr. Rees to arrive. He stepped into the classroom and made himself at home right away. We really enjoyed his company, and I could tell that he also enjoyed being there and working with youth.
We shared our food with our speaker, and then we sat down and ate a couple tacos each while Dr. Rees talked about the importance of understanding that we, people, are not in a place to be concerned with the environment, but in fact are a part of the environment. Water, carbon, oxygen, nutrients, energy, … all these things flow in and out of us as they make their way through their cycles in the environment. The students seemed perplexed during much of his lecture, but overall were intrigued by the way that he had them thinking about these things.
I interrupted briefly to place the cupcakes on the table and hand the birthday girls their cards. We also sang happy birthday. After class, I spoke briefly with Dr. Rees. It was truly an honour to have him join us. I then dismissed everyone and tackled the cleanup solo. This was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be, in fact, I enjoyed it. I tidied the room briefly, donated some food to the Kettle Society, and then went to print certificates.
Day 22: Clean-Up
Today was an industrious class (and a day when we broke all of the Food Rules that we have learned so far this course. I went to the school nice and early and was actually very excited to clean up (not that I was excited to end the course, but instead to get the cleanup part done well before I had to get to the airport to catch my flight). At the school I put things away, and then started immediately to take down the posters that I had put up just 6 weeks ago. My, has the summer flown by … in such a good way though. This experience truly was a justification to learn all summer long (about food, myself, people, education, teaching, learning, current events, and so forth). I then packed up all the library books that I had borrowed over the past 2 months. There were roughly 40 of them. When I went to the library and found it closed, I waited for it to open in order to be able to avoid placing all these wonderful books in the drop container.
After going to Drive Organics for Mitra, and then to Tony’s for a scone and Americano, I returned to the classroom to pack the things that I would be taking home tonight. Following this I cleaned out the spoilage in the fridge (not as much as I had imagined). I continued to sort through the open non-perishables for the students to select from.
Before too long the students had begun to arrive (much earlier than usual). I thanked each of them for showing up on a cleaning day. We had discussion about the day before, and then on the importance of leaving the room in better shape than that in which we had found it in mid-July. I talked briefly about what was going to happen today and tomorrow, and even mentioned the sustainability of this course briefly.
My Powerpoint today focused on two things: the survey that I am asking them to fill-out, and the selection of pizzas that we can order from. The students then broke into teams and did a spectacular job at cleaning and organizing the entire classroom. (Earlier they had helped themselves to ingredients to take home with them … and extended their gratitude for this … which was my pleasure to be able to share this with them). From one kitchen to the next the students made everything orderly and sanitary.
Next, we cleaned the stoves and later on cleaned out the fridge and even did the laundry. At lunchtime I went to pick up the pizzas from Megabite (their choice). Back in the classroom we enjoyed these with an Aranciata, and shared with Dawn Kelly, the new Home Economics teacher here in Room 102 at Britannia Secondary. We enjoyed conversation, and then got back to work. The energy of the students was high, and they had fun playing with the balloons from yesterday’s birthday festivities.
We shared two pints of Udder Guy’s ice cream (pistachio and black cherry) and then washed our last dishes. By the time 2:30 rolled around we were ready to go (even I was ready to go, but had 2 hours to wait for Krystle). The students were dismissed, and I thanked Diane for her extended help over the summer before she left. I then spent the next couple hours finishing off details for tomorrow.
Day 23: Food Bank (and Reflection)
So here we are, day 23; the final day of this course. When someone asked me the other day to describe how this process has gone I told them that it has been far more challenging (and more work hours) than I had ever imagined, but also has been much more fulfilling and successful than I could have dreamed for.
Today I went to the school much later because we were not preparing any food, and nor was there anything to put away. I had been up until 2AM the night before tying up loose ends and preparing a picnic lunch for everyone. This morning I finished the wraps and put everything onto my bike for one last cart haul to the school. This was definitely an example of burning the candle at both ends, but it was definitely worth it later today.
I did some running around when at the school tying up loose ends and creating a presentation for the final day. I also created a list of 10 circle questions to reflect when on our picnic. Kim arrived at the school and we signed off on our expense contract and my final report (reflection on the experience). The students started to arrive, and were all there early (except for two).
For the first half-hour of the class we had a good discussion about what this course intended to do, and what it in fact did. I also emphasized that although this course did not have credit associated with the VSB, it will be an invaluable experience for them to take with them into their future (volunteer hours, giving, guest speakers, field trips, critical thinking, creativity, multi-tasking, cooking, knife skills, etc.). One of the students kindly gave me a thank you card this morning (this was unbelievably kind).
I handed out a bag of homemade kale chips and a pear each, and then we each carried a bag of non-perishables for the food bank. We walked through the industrial area, which was unappealing, but found our destination and went on a tour that was much better than I had expected. Danielle showed us the ins and outs of this service that has been operating for 30 years (yet preferred not to be at all). The class donated 90 lb of food (which Danielle complimented for being good quality choices). After questions and discussion, we walked across the street to Strathcona Park.
On baseball bleachers in the moving shade we sat together and enjoyed lunch (curried chicken wraps, spicy tuna wraps, veggies and homemade ranch dip, kale chips, pears, cantaloupe, Babybel cheese). It was tremendous to see how far this class has come together over the summer. Even the shy students were talking. Kim joined us later, and we went to the grass and found a place to sit in a circle.
For the next 90 minutes each students had a chance to answer one of the circle questions as we went around the circle at least a dozen times. They reflected on highlights, challenges, memories, things learned, future courses, etc. This was exactly how I wanted to complete the course, and I could see that they appreciated this opportunity. My dream had come true. I handed out certificates, and shook their hands. That is all, the course was a success, and was done. I handed in my keys, mailed my report, and went home.