HHS students learn by tasting cultural food
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The field trips around the world taken by David Butcher’s students at Heritage High require no bag packing or plane hopping — instead they are asked to bring with them a sense of adventure, curiosity and courage despite not leaving the classroom. Butcher teaches world geography at Heritage and said the field trip approach fits his teaching technique and the students’ desire to learn more than a foreign destination’s location on a map.
Last week, Butcher became chef for a day inside the classroom as he introduced his students to a Norwegian dish called gravlax. The salmon dish with mustard sauce left some wanting more and others wishing they had a bottle of water.
Where it comes from
“This is a very ancient recipe,” Butcher explained as he sliced the salmon and placed each piece on a cracker before topping it with a mustard sauce, at 8:30 in the morning. “It is very popular in Nordic countries, he said. “They used to bury it in the sand above the high tide line.” The freshmen in Butcher’s first block had previously watched a video on Sweden where a chef made this same dish. Butcher has made it before and loves introducing the students to food they otherwise would never consider trying.
“I do this thing with food every year,” he explained. “I try to bring in food from different countries. It’s a great way to connect with the places we are studying. It is one of the most memorable things we do because they have never had anything like it.”
For some of the more adventurous students, they couldn’t wait to take a bite. For others, it was a matter of closing their eyes, holding their noses and getting through it. Bristol Smith, who did take his time finishing the fish dish, declared it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Butcher encouraged everyone to at least take a nibble. “Your palates will get more adventurous as you get older,” he told them. “You will move beyond chicken nuggets.” The first time Butcher had this same dish was while living in New York years ago. He has lived there, in California and Mexico and has traveled to Japan and Europe on many occasions. He said his ultimate goal with these geography students is to instill a natural curiosity about the world all around them.
“The ultimate aim of this is to stimulate them to want to become life-long learners,” Butcher said. “To be curious about the world.” The world geography class starts the field trip in the U.S. and then ‘travels’ to Canada and Mexico before exploring South America, Europe and Asia. Butcher and his students don’t get to every country, but at each location, the teacher said he incorporates the most helpful details. “It might be economics or government and politics or physical geography like rivers, mountain ranges, lakes and deserts,” Butcher said. Or the culture might be what we focus on — music, religion, the arts, the food and sports. I really love that aspect.”
Worth a try
Getting outside their comfort zone was another of Butcher’s goals for these students — and that mission was accomplished. None of them had tasted gravlax before but after this experiment, some were ready to move on to the next challenge. On this day it happened to be goat cheese, imported from France.
Butcher had the 22 students in first block eat the gravlax at the same time.
Facial expressions told it all. He had to laugh at some of the comments but certainly appreciated their courage and curiosity.
Brianna Mandrekas gave the fish dish a positive nod as did Jessica Cooper. Jessica Brown, on the other hand, probably won’t be ordering it next time she eats out. Yves Tucker absolutely loved it while Cameron Rimmer found it palate-pleasing as well.As for the goat cheese, there were those who couldn’t get past the texture, creaminess, etc.
But now all of them know what gravlax and goat cheese taste like, where they come from and how to serve it should they want to.
“One reason food is such a great way to learn about culture is that every region has its own specialty,” Butcher said. “That is influenced by local ingredients that are often influenced by the environment. When people come together and share food and culture it’s a beautiful way to bond and respect each other’s differences.”