It has been a long time! But we have some exciting news to share as we get deeper into fall and winter:
We are able to cook together again while at John O’Connell’s campus! This is a hybrid version of our regular class(3 days a week we travel down to the kitchen classroom), but being able to get active again is huge! We truly appreciate Chef Dan and the staff at John O’Connell who have helped make this happen. It is making a big difference to our students, to be able to actively cook together again. Pictures soon, just wanted to share our excitement now!
Reality: In the rush of requirement, it is hard to keep meaning going in the classroom, particularly with writing. We recently offered journaling in class as a way to give students time to write in an open ended fashion. More than one student stared back at us in disbelief. “What do you mean, just write?”
“Yes, we said, just fill the page.” Some of them got into it. So when we offered blog post writing for some additional credit, several gravitated towards the opportunity. The agreement: entries would be posted unfiltered, unedited and anonymous. As agreed, we’ve started to link them using a very basic tumblr blog. You can read them too. Here is the link, which can also be found on our students page: http://idabstudentswrite.tumblr.com/ I can hear their voices and it means a lot to me that they shared their thoughts. We’re offering this blog posting opportunity again, and will keep updating it as we go along.
Help keep the rain dance going with us this Monday April 6th at John O’Connell High School 4-7pm! CUESA has worked with the garden at this school for years and here is our chance to bring it back after a year of dormancy. Heat of the Kitchen classes will then continue with the garden until our move back to Ida B. Wells. A great opportunity for us to continue a hands-on connection with work and food!
It may not look that exciting, but our “safety net” map has been a through-line for me this past quarter. We are on break this week, which I hoped would give me a break too, to get a sense of whether the students are getting anything out of our “no cooking” culinary careers classwork. On this map, students circled areas of interest that they want to learn about in the 8 weeks we are together.
Even though you can’t see all the detail that was circled in this picture, I like this map because it proves a point to me. Yes, young people want jobs, they want to be more secure and be able to make choices after high school, not be dealt with, which is how school still feels at this age for many of our students.
We’ve got some exciting projects that we hope will help students feel more prepared, confident, connected (keyword tip offs here: Quince! Garden!). The timing might be right, then again, it might not. It doesn’t change our appreciation for those of you who are jumping in and getting involved. Thank you.
Students notice even when they choose to stay on the sidelines and many of them move one step closer to getting involved as a result of your involvement. The message that comes with every volunteer or industry person who brings an opportunity to our school is that very important “I care even though I don’t know you,” message. This message helps to offset the litany of other messages that inner city youth receive which default, intentionally or unintentionally, to lack of care or inability to care.
The more times our students witness that unconditional “I care” message, the more they can prepare to step outside what is defaulted to them. This picture is one more sign to me that they want to do that. And, as we all send out our caring messages, what keeps me going is looking forward to when young people begin to realize how amazing they really are and get in touch with their own limitless potential. This kind of discovery is awesome, isn’t it? It is why our class is designed for students to be able to cook and eat together at that professional level. it is a catalyst right into opening those deeper discovery doors that too often are shut for our inner city youth. Yes, I can’t wait to start cooking with them in a real kitchen again.
I’m not sure who painted this, but it is my favorite rendition of Ida B. Wells. Someone was smart enough to bring our Ida B. Wells posters and this painting here to John O’Connell High School, to decorate our hallways.
Here in week 3, we are still getting used to things. Two schools in one building must never be easy. We know it is all for a good reason, to be able to return to our newly renovated school building in a year, made safe and more useable. So with this move, each school wants to create a sense of community, and at the same time not lose each school’s unique character. And how is it turning out? So far the default has to serve the most amount of students consistently. Ours being a smaller amount of students, means we must defer to the larger flow. Ida B. Wells students seem to be developing a stronger sense of separation, isolation, segregation. Little things, like hearing the other school’s announcements (and what they have access to), to our problems with heat, broken shades, confusion in separate lunch times – these are all becoming bigger things.
We have been talking about characteristics and skills in our classes, as we build resumes. The most amazing characteristic I’ve seen in our students? Is that even with the frustrations in all this change, they have a resilience in them. Those that are coming to our classes still smile and/or say hello and are keeping our mutual respect. You have to look for these silver linings, focus harder on those, while you repair what is not right. That being said, the words on this painting were Ida B. Wells’ over a century ago. And they are still true today. There is still so much to fix. ~posted 1 1/2 hours into lockdown
I’ve spent the last few months preparing to move out of Ida B.Wells worrying about how to teach a culinary arts class without cooking. “Well, it’s not really a culinary arts class,” I’ve always told people. It is a work simulation class using culinary as a theme. Um, and that culinary part? It is a huge part for me, bigger than I first thought. It is what automatically connects us, automatically equalizes us, and with our combined efforts, feeds us on many levels.
I have been moping a little that I won’t have the thrill of the stove, the splash at the sink, or the pressure of the period ending bell to accomplish what we’ve been able to these last 5 years. That and attitudes have been wafting through the halls, perhaps we might be assimilated into the larger school site that will host us? After all, we are a small, alternative school floating quietly on a increasingly crowded sea of requirements. We don’t fit a mold for good reasons. But one can’t plan anything when your attitude focuses on impending doom. Instead of planning, you develop a planitude – an attitude that distracts you, like a dark fog.
Then a few weeks ago, I got to sit down with the project team to go over the renovation plans as respects my classroom, a basement area that has been Ida B. Wells’ cafeteria over the last 30 years (although every year I’ve been there I’ve inched into a bit more of it).
And as I sat there, with all these experts, seeing on the official black and white architect’s layout that they are building a real Culinary Arts classroom, with a full hood and ansul system, I started to get excited. All this trouble we are going through moving out is for good reason – our building is old and broken. And I have proof on these pages (which I’ve been carrying around with me like a security blanket) that we’ll be able to support students who need an alternative better than ever when we return in 2016. It really is happening.
Now to get back to teaching and taking care of the students moving with us, with all the value, respect and hospitality we can muster. There will still be bumps in the road, but it is heartening to see a glimpse into our future like this one.
… and we thought they were collard greens! Meet romanesco, one of the more wonderful displays of the Fibonacci sequence out there. And there are now over a dozen of these happy little fractals in our school garden, quietly growing in the rain.
While we are actively packing to move out of our building in a week and a half (more on that later), signs like this sure are welcome!
It is always hard to capture pictures of our students as we lead into the Long Table Dinner, it is just too frantic. But once things calmed down, I found a stack of index cards from our students, describing their most memorable moments from class that week. Hands down it was the making (and tasting) of the upside down plum cake for our sixth Long Table Dinner Event on October 23rd. We used a flat of organic Last Chance plums from a local farmer’s market, they were delicious, and indeed the last plums of the season.
There is something magical about upside down cake. You have this butter-sugar mixture that you swear will not become caramel. Then you place fruit on top of it, pour cake batter over it and cross your fingers as you slide the pans into the oven.
More often than not, the magic of the fruit talks that butter-sugar mixture into melting into a luscious caramel. It is an exciting moment as you invert the still-hot cake and watch this delicious mixture step down from the pan. If the fruit gets stuck to that pan bottom, just coax it out with a metal spatula – it is an easy repair job if you catch it right when it is coming out of the pan. We used smaller cast iron pans (#5), easier to handle when hot.
The recipe we used is easy to find (see below), which we adapted here and there, substituting some almond flour and creating a vegan version, using almond milk and applesauce for the dairy.
And for those wheat free guests? We sliced fresh plums, tossed them in sugar and lemon juice, garnishing with dollops of cream. Link to Simply Recipe’s original recipe is here, with our gratitude!
My most memorable meal was definitely the pasta and tiramisu. It was better than the clam chowder and lemon meringue. The day we had the meal was very exciting because it was the first time eating the stuff we made ourselves. The feel of the room was very exciting because we were about to eat. The pasta meal was memorable because it was very delicious, especially the tiramisu that K, G, and I made. ~ W.L.