The classroom and the quesadilla


The classroom and the quesadilla

Middle-schoolers in our town's public education system may find themselves in a class called Modern Living, an updated version of Home Economics.

In it, my daughter last semester helped fashion brownies, pancakes, smoothies, pizza bagels, quesadillas and crepes. The brownies were from a mix; the students could add either applesauce or water. They added milk to a dry mix for pancakes.

The crepes were made from scratch, but the quesadillas were the star. They could have been the real lesson that expanded to fill all the day's subjects, with their components of whole-wheat tortillas, blue cheese, red onions and sliced roast beef.

A tortilla is the story of a culture; add whole wheat, or explore the corn variety, and the story delves into politics and grain prices and agricultural policy - and becomes book-length. Blue cheese is the story of mythology and milk preservation (and another kind of culture), of politics and penicillum. Red onions are a good source of Vitamins C and B6, a potent antioxidant and helpful for brain and nerve function, respectively. Roast beef is a rich source of protein and cholesterol and, at the same time the industrially-raised cow and legions like it (and our appetite for them) are linked to greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation, questionable public policy and the dead zone from agricultural runoff in the Gulf of Mexico.

Then there's the compelling flavor combination. And for a seventh-grader to have tasted it for the first time at a public school? Excellent.

Now, to move those edible lessons and similarly inventive foods onto school lunch trays as replacements for macho nachos at the middle school, or, better yet, as one of many replacements for chicken patties, chicken nuggets, French toast sticks and pizza at the elementary schools.

Those items offer their own lessons.


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