From the Ground Up: Crafting Cookbooks and Planting Plugs

by Melissa Harding

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As part of the Museums Connect program, made possible by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and administered by the American Alliance of Museums, Phipps is partnering with the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria to provide an immersive experience for 15 local high school students in each city. Participating students will learn about nutrition, cooking and cultural food traditions by following local food from farm to table and will be communicating with students at their partner institutions. This project will last from September to June, resulting in the creation of a community cookbook that will be designed and created by participating students. Students will also meet each month for a Saturday workshop involving activities designed to get them thinking critically about their food system and food culture. Calling themselves the Global Chefs, this group of students is excited to learn more about what food means in their lives.

As the Museums Connect project starts winding down to the final few months, the Global Chefs are moving towards thinking more about their final projects: the community feast they are planning with their Nigerian counterparts and the culturally-diverse cookbook they are creating. Last weekend, a beautiful day filled with sunshine and warm weather was on order and the students spent the day planting in our Edible Garden and working on their individual cookbook pages.

To begin, the students met with Phipps staffer Mike Bechtel, a display horticulturalist in the Edible Garden. Using the plans they created for their beds during the March workshops, the students planted plugs of cool weather crops that they had started from seeds in February. They planted Asian leafy greens, swiss chard, lettuce, beets and radishes. When harvested, some of these plants will be used for the Phipps Café and others for the community feast in May.

After planting, the students attended a two-hour workshop by Katy DeMint and Nora Gilchrist from the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse focusing on using repurposed items to create their individual cookbook pages. This book will contain recipes from the students and their families, many of which were recreated during the workshops throughout the year. When finished, it will be displayed both in Phipps upcoming Tropical Forest: Congo show and at the Gidan Makama Museums in Kano, Nigeria. The students also had a chance to create small books containing all of the recipes that cooked at the preceding workshops to take home with them.

Finally, the Global Chefs Skyped with their counterparts in Nigeria. Even though they did not have a workshop on the same day the our students, the Nigerians were so excited to talk to them that they all came in on their day off to do so. Once again, the Global Chefs had a great conversation with their Nigerian peers and are even more excited for their impending visit late this spring. Next month, the students will finish their cookbook pages and start preparations for the upcoming community feast.

To see more pictures from the workshop, check out the slideshow below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The above photos were taken by Kate Borger.

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