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Haitian Food by Grade Six

Eggplant crown on eatlivetravelwrite(or “What Grade Six did on the last day of school. Eggplant crowns and all!”)

This past term I have been working on a Haitian-themed unit with my Grade Six class.  It all started when we were asked to write some letters to the St Vincent’s School after the earthquake.  Our school is working to support the Center for Handicapped Children and our chaplain thought it would be nice for those children to receive letters from similar-aged children.

I started out by doing some activities to introduce the geography, history and culture of Haiti and we worked on a simple reader which really opened the boys’ eyes to how lucky they are.  We worked on the letters for a number of weeks – as well as learning how to structure a letter (as opposed to an email), there was a lot of new vocabulary to learn and along the way we also learned how to successfully navigate an online dictionary (you know, not picking the first translation that is given and actually reading through the list to see what works!!).

The letters were posted off just before our March Break and when we came back from vacation, I realised that time was slipping away and that I was not going to have time to complete a full-blown unit on anything new so I continued working on the reader for a while, and the boys practiced re-telling the story in their own words – paraphrasing is surprisingly difficult in a second language but they managed very well and ended up writing it in comic book form (How to get little boys into writing? Let them illustrate it at the end!)

I have been teaching the majority of these boys since Grade Three and we have enjoyed numerous visits from Le Chef à l’Ecole so I got to thinking that they might like to end their time with me by doing some cooking.  Since we had briefly looked at cuisine in the early part of the unit, I decided to work on that in a little more depth.

I had the boys work in groups using a website where the language was fairly within their grasp.  They chose three recipes they liked he look of, figured out what ingredients were necessary and translated the recipe into English. This took rather a long time (as in probably half a lesson every day for a couple of weeks) but they were super-engaged and who’s complaining when 12 year old boys are interested in French???

I collated the results and chose recipes that we were able to make using our very limited kitchen equipment (the boys were disappointed we couldn’t make a roast chicken!) and the boys were thrilled to hear that we would be making:

Acras de Morue (Fried Cod cakes)

Acras d’Aubergine (Eggplant croquettes) and

Crêpes de Bananes (Banana pancakes)

(they were disappointed that we wouldn’t be using “rhum vieux” in the crêpes though!!)

Since I didn’t want to be testing recipes for the first time on the last day  of school with 20 twelve year-olds, I searched around and found recipes that were similar from places I could trust or sites that had reviews of recipes.  They ended up being surprisingly similar.

On Monday, we headed out to the supermarket to buy the ingredients.  The boys were most excellently behaved and fabulous little shoppers (the bag of Twizzlers I bought them at the end of the trip didn’t hurt to encourage best behaviour!) and we headed back to school with everything we needed (thanks Emilie and Brian for accompanying us!).

I have to say on the morning of the cooking extravaganza, I was quite hesitant – as I told them later, it really could have gone either way.  But with the help of my wonderful colleagues, Anna and Brian, and the support of my fabulous boss, Catherine, the morning went off without a hitch.  I was so proud of the boys and it’s moments like this that really make me step back and realise how lucky I am to work where I do.

My group worked on the Eggplant Croquettes.  As you can see in the pictures above and below, the boys enjoyed working with the “weird” veggies!

The boys demonstrated excellent chopping and peeling skills and even though there was a lot to prep, they managed very well. They shared the utensils and the tasks and were simultaneously grossed out and overjoyed when the time came to make the croquettes with their hands!

They were absolutely delicious and even though the original recipe did not call for cheese, I loved this addition to the croquettes – made for a nice change of texture.

Anna worked with the boys making fish cakes.  I was very surprised at how many of them wanted to make these – I thought they would be the least popular item!

They had a lot of jobs to so (and apparently a lot of parsley to chop!!!) but their fish cakes turned out absolutely amazingly!  Staff members were coming over at lunchtime to take seconds and thirds!! And the boys LOVED them!

Brian (sweet tooth that he is) opted to work with the group making pancakes.  They had an easy job making the batter but it made litres of the stuff and they spent a long time cooking them…

There were a huge hit…

And I guess you won’t be surprised to learn these were gone before anything else!!!

I will admit we did the shopping and cooking in English because, well it was the last week of school (and I needed help from other teachers who don’t speak French).  Also, this is the first time I have ever done a unit of work like this so it’s very much a learn-as-you-go process and, as we tell the boys, the process is just as important as the product.  In this case, the product was delicious but next time, the product will be delicious and it will have been made using even more French. They did learn a ton of new vocabulary throughout the process leading up the the final two days which is positive but I definitely see room for improvement next time.  Teaching is a constant learning process so I love to try new things and then try then again to see how I can make them better.  I can hardly wait until next year.

In the meantime, I am so happy to have finished my time with the boys (they have a different teacher in Grade 7) on such a positive note.  I am so proud of everything they accomplished over the past four years in French and was glad I was able to share something I really love doing (cooking) in a  meaningful way with them!  I sometimes wonder if we could start a new program in schools called “Le Français par la Cuisine” (French through Cooking) – I mean, I would sign up, wouldn’t you???

You can find the recipes by clicking the links below:

Eggplant Croquettes on AllRecipes

Cod Fish Cakes by Simply Recipes

Banana Pancakes on AllRecipes

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40 Responses to Haitian Food by Grade Six

  1. Lora June 17, 2010 at 06:14 #

    I want to go back to school hand have you as my teacher. What a fun, creative and globally aware learning experience. They are lucky to have you.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 19, 2010 at 11:34 #

      Yes, that was what I was aiming for – a little bit of global awareness. They boys certainly learned a lot about Haiti and hopefully about how lucky they are themselves.

  2. Jan (Family Bites) June 17, 2010 at 06:32 #

    How excellent! As a food-loving mom of boys I can completely appreciate how awesome it was that you did this with them and I’m certain they won’t forget it.

  3. Belinda @zomppa June 17, 2010 at 07:32 #

    What a great curriculum. I also wish you were my teacher!

  4. penny aka jeroxie June 17, 2010 at 08:00 #

    I wish I had a school teacher like you. Will have enjoyed it a lot more.

  5. Lori Lynn June 17, 2010 at 08:02 #

    What a darling post Mardi! I work at a K-8 school too. I bet those boys just loved having you as a teacher. Such a fun and engaging final project! Kudos to you!
    LL

  6. Daydreamer Desserts June 17, 2010 at 09:01 #

    I couldn’t think of a better way to learn any new language than via cooking! :) Congrats to your students.

  7. Mary Ann Dames - Reading, Writing, and Recipes June 17, 2010 at 09:39 #

    Twenty boys in the kitchen at the same time. You are one brave lady.

  8. Rachel Joyce June 17, 2010 at 10:43 #

    You are the best 6th grade teacher ever! So much fun AND great food on the last day-brilliant. I’m loving your photo organization technique here a well. Bright, clean and beautiful.

  9. Cook with Madin June 17, 2010 at 19:03 #

    You are such a great teacher. I will go back to school if you will be my teacher. Looks like all the kids had a great time. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Geoff June 17, 2010 at 19:27 #

    Great post, Mardi. Out of interest, I can see how the process of learning, writing, shopping, cooking and eating would have expanded the boys’ French vocabulary, but does doing something like this fit easily into the curriculum? Is it an add-on and nice-to-do, or does it actually match whatever the curriculum requirements are for the year? Anyway, lovely idea and reflective of an open-minded school where learning is not relegated to chore, but to interesting experience.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 19, 2010 at 11:29 #

      Well, as I explained, it was more like an add on but if you’re clever enough, you can work anything around the curriculum! And yes, our school is very open minded and progressive and we do try to make the classroom reflect real life as much as possible.

  11. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best June 17, 2010 at 21:17 #

    What a fun event with your students, and a sweet post your pride of this class. These boys accomplished more cooking that I ever did when I was in sixth grade. It must have been quite a meal!

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 19, 2010 at 11:28 #

      Thanks Christine – they really enjoyed it and even the teachers had fun!! Always a good thing!

  12. Pam M June 18, 2010 at 01:43 #

    What a wonderful post. The food looks very professional,. Both you and your boys should be very proud. They clearly had great fun and
    hopefully they will keep up their culinary skills at home. You are going to miss them.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 19, 2010 at 11:26 #

      Yes I will miss them, it’s always bittersweet at the end of the year. I also hope they keep up some cooking at home!

  13. Magic of Spice June 18, 2010 at 22:53 #

    Those are some lucky kids:) You are an amazing teacher and this all looks like such a fun and creative day!

  14. k a b l o o e y June 19, 2010 at 19:40 #

    Yes, I certainly would sign up, since I’d like to learn to cook properly and speak French (at all.) Then again, I’d probably sign up for Organic Chemistry through Cooking.

  15. Fuji Mama June 19, 2010 at 21:35 #

    What a wonderful year it has been! Your students have been amazing, and what a way to end the year!

  16. CatherineK June 21, 2010 at 04:53 #

    Great post, Mardi. What a fantastic way to end the year with the boys. How lucky we all are to have your talent at school. Can’t wait for cooking club next year… yum!!!

  17. Jennifer Muir June 22, 2010 at 18:56 #

    I would sign up in a heart beat! I’ve been trying to learn French for a long time now, and it just doesn’t stick because I’m surrounded by English all the time :(

  18. cat June 22, 2010 at 22:32 #

    i continue to be awed by the amazing culinary adventures you undertake with your boys!

  19. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction June 24, 2010 at 16:29 #

    What an amazing way to learn about other areas of the world. I wish we had done things like that when I was in 6th grade. The world would be a better place if there were more teachers like you! :)

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 25, 2010 at 16:32 #

      Thanks Jen! I think if you do something that you truly love, it rubs off on your students. If I could, I would cook with them ALL DAY!

  20. Conor @ HoldtheBeef June 30, 2010 at 03:35 #

    Woohoo! I knew you could do it! What a success!

    Those banana pancakes would be pretty awesome flambéed with rum. I can only imagine the mayhem of getting the boys to flambé, hehe.

    You know what this whole meal is missing though? $48 cheese.

    • Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite July 2, 2010 at 10:23 #

      Yes many people commented on the lack of the expensive cheese! In any case it was a lesson to the boys as to where to find ingredients for cooking in the supermarket. Eating cheese= at a different counter!

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