My name is Jen Boylan and I teach literature and Gastronomy at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering, a public school in Harlem that was recently named the most diverse school in New York City. Food Considered is the blog I created with my students and it’s a journal of our adventures in our Gastronomy 101 class and the EatNYC club.
Why “Food Considered?”
We hope that by telling our stories that we will inspire a generation of young students to consider what they eat as well. We believe food education should be a valued and positive part of high school curricula, with a focus on pleasure, experience and thoughtful discussion. Whether it’s preparing students for a career in agricultural engineering, introducing them to new farmers’ markets, or just sharing a great cheese, our Food Considered site strives to open students’ minds to a world of good food.
The Gastronomy class was started in 2007. The idea for this class sprung from a simple notion: I wanted to share the pleasure of eating good food with my students. That pleasure turned out to be a great way to discuss some heavier topics like the ethical, environmental and health implications of our food choices. While the discussions are anchored by a sturdy reading curriculum, they are balanced with meaningful (and mostly fun) experiences. So we’ll read Wendell Berry or Eliot Coleman, but then we’ll visit conventional and organic farms to see what kind of food these ideas produce. We’ll taste hand-picked, traditional teas from China to learn about artisanal production and cultural practices. And we’ll tackle philosophical readings about the ethics of eating meat, but then we’ll visit a slaughterhouse where students will have to decide to participate or not. Through these outings, cooking sessions, guest lectures and tastings, students will be able to think critically about their food choices and realize that these (and all) choices say a lot about who they are.
EatNYC is an after school club that was started once I realized that many of my students really didn’t know New York City. I was shocked when I brought my Gastronomy class on field trips to Union Square or the West Village and some kids exclaimed that it was the first time they had ever been to that neighborhood. Unacceptable! So each Friday after school I happily chaperone the first ten students who return permission slips to globetrot across the five boroughs to find affordable ethnic eats such as Nepalese thali, Filipino sisig, and Peruvian ceviche. The club is separate from the class and open to all students each week and it’s a fun way to learn about different cultures and try new foods while hanging out with friends. It’s a win-win-win. Follow our adventures both here and on our Facebook page.