Often described as a melting pot of nations, Canada boasts a vibrant tapestry of peoples that have brought new and interesting customs to communities such as Weyburn. Most notable of those traditions, and perhaps the most dearly held, is the sharing of customary foods from the Homeland. As Saskatchewan concludes its celebration of multicultural week, the students of Rebecca Olson's Commercial Cooking class at the Weyburn Comprehensive School reflect upon their experiences while sharing a taste of the nations with their peers.
Brody Maas, a third-year student in the Commercial Cooking class, was tasked with preparing a unique dessert that would put his skills to the test. As he whisked away at his station, he divulged his thoughts on the recent assignments.
"The Filipino culture was a new experience for me. We made a dish with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, and pork which I enjoyed, and I really didn't know what to expect going into it. Today I am preparing Lamingtons, an Australian dish with sponge cake covered in a chocolate icing and rolled in shredded coconut. Desserts are not my forte, I usually prefer working with salads and the main dish, so I anticipate some challenges with getting the icing perfect."
Another student, Falon Jordens, shared her joy in discovering new recipes to add to her repertoire. "I definitely enjoyed learning about Filipino foods," she said. "I didn't really know much beforehand, so it was all a new experience. I'll definitely try to recreate some of these dishes for myself though!"
While putting the finishing touches on her Mexican Taco Soup, a meal that would be served to her hungry peers lining up at the cafeteria doors, Jordens elaborated on some of the lessons she learned throughout the week while exploring unfamiliar techniques and recipes.
"Time management has been a big priority for us this week, because we only have an hour to prepare for the lunch service, and attempting foods we've never cooked before adds another element of difficulty. I've enjoyed it though, especially realizing how many cultures there are that I don't know much about and getting that small taste of them."
As the meals made their way to the serving line and workstations received their final cleanings, samples began to make their way around the kitchen. A taste of Filipino Leche Flan produced beaming smiles and raised eyebrows in each of the young cooks. Finally, the class could relish in their accomplishment.
"We taste everything we make," shared Ms. Olson. "This experience has been really good for them, learning new techniques, and new tastes. I think it's been very beneficial for them, especially since we have so many of these cultures in our school."
Those benefits would also extend beyond the confines of Ms. Olson's kitchen. By offering a multicultural menu, students eating at the cafeteria would experience the cultural foods of their peers, providing the opportunity for open discussion and shared learning experiences.
"Food is such an integral part of culture. Oftentimes, when you think of another country you think of the touristy attractions, right? The stuff you can see. Not much can be communicated through sight, so food needs to be part of the experience. It is a universal language."
Olson also touched on the benefits of allowing students to let their culture shine by taking pride in the skills they could share with others.
"Some of the Filipino students were fabulous in showing us how to do techniques that they used for their cultural food," she said. "[Janna] is great at rolling [Lumpiang], so she's been extremely helpful in showing us how it's done. We did learn some other techniques online and wrote our recipes from there. Other times we were just winging it!"
Having created Filipino favorites, Mexican blends, Polish comforts, Italian cuisine and even Australian sweets, the students have navigated a gastronomic adventure that transcends borders, not only expanding their culinary skills but also creating a platform for cultural understanding and connection within the school community. As Multicultural week draws to an end, the class's commitment to culinary diversity echoes a broader message: the power to bridge cultures and build lasting connections through food.
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