April 28, 2017

Connecting Food, Culture and Identity with the Oak Bluffs School Sixth Grade

The sixth grade students began their exploration of food and culture by watching the film One Hundred Foot Journey. The film tells the story of an Indian family that is forced to flee India due to violent political conflict. The family finds themselves in France where they open an Indian restaurant. A clash of cultures ensues and culminates in the attempted conflagration of the Indian restaurant at the hands of two French chefs. Ultimately, the conflict is resolved when the local French people and recently transplanted Indian people develop a mutual love for each other's food and culture.

After learning about French and Indian culture, the students were eager to explore their own food cultures. Students conducted Family Food Interviews, asking each other questions such as, "What is your favorite family dish? Why?" Favorite family dishes included: mac and cheese, rice and beans, schnitzel, ackee, spaghetti, scallops, steak and many others. After listing their favorite foods, students made a list of foods they thought of when considering Martha's Vineyard food culture. On this list, students mentioned food from local farms, seafood, wild edibles, hunted meats and summer barbecue. In comparing the list of students' favorite family foods with Martha's Vineyard foods, students noted that the list of Martha's Vineyard foods lacked the diverse cultural foods eaten at home. We merged the two lists and pondered, "What makes up food culture? Is food culture based on what is local? What a place is known for? Or what people are actually eating?"  

To culminate, the students came together to prepare and eat a community meal. After coming to agreement over the foods they wanted to make, the sixth graders worked together to cook clam chowder, a salad featuring greens from the school greenhouse, schnitzel, challah bread, cranberry bread and brigadeiro. 

Here are some students reflections on the community meal: 

Our community meal yesterday tasted great and was so much fun to make. The best part about it in my opinion is that we all came together and prepared a meal. Our classwork was mostly about how food is identity and what you eat makes you who you are. I think food is important because it doesn’t just fuel us for the day, it's a way of life and a way to come together. -- Penelope  

I thought that our community meal turned out really well. Not just the food (the food did turn out really well), but also the preparing of the food. Everyone worked together and got it done. It helped me understand how food, identity and culture are connected because I now realize that food can be your identity and culture. I had not thought about that , but now I do. -- Hannah  

The community meal was really good. It made me understand that if you don’t share the same culture, that you don't follow the same culture, you don't need to be afraid of it, because where you live now there is freedom, and there is a lot of good stuff about other cultures that shouldn't change. Just because you move to another country doesn’t mean you need to follow the same culture, doesn’t mean you need to give up your culture. You are who you are and you don't need to change. Do you know why? Because you are free and what we did yesterday at the community meal was really good because we mixed different cultures together. We tried something new, we learned about other cultures. -- Lorhana