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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 12

Our last class started with a discussion of the word “bittersweet” - certainly something many of us were feeling as our three months in the kitchen with the third graders came to a close. We definitely saved one of the best recipes for last, though, with Chinese dumplings, a culinary tradition that dates back 1700 years.

The students watched a video about the history of dumplings and another showcasing dumplings from around Asia: Korean mandu, Chinese guotie (potstickers), Nepali momo, and Japanese gyoza. We talked about how Chinese food culture has influenced the rest of the world, for example, with the invention of noodles. Some were quite shocked to contemplate that spaghetti comes from China! But once we stop to think about it, it’s easy to see how the dumpling begat ravioli.

Our filling contained classic Chinese aromatics such as garlic, ginger, and chives, as well as shiitake mushrooms, tofu, cabbage, and carrot. We learned how much filling was just right, how to wet the edges of the wrapper before sealing, and how each dumpling shows a bit of our personality once we’re finished crimping its edges.

While the dumplings steamed, students made their own customized dipping sauce, with a choice of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sambal, chili oil, sesame oil, and green onions. We finished the class with a gratitude circle and implored the kids to keep cooking! Thank you to Miss Grace and Miss Lizzie for being such incredible teaching partners, and to all the many volunteers without whom we couldn’t do this work. Thank you to Aurelie David de Lossy, Melissa Brown, Cindy Peterson, Mr. Andrew, and Mr. Lorenzo for helping in the kitchen and to Jennifer Horner and Susan Canavan for laundering the class aprons. We are so grateful for all of you and look forward to more culinary adventures together soon.

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Chefs in the City Week 6B: Richmond - Grechnevaya Kasha

This week we talked about the Russian Orthodox churches and Russian bakeries you find in the Richmond District. We discussed how large numbers of Russian immigrants and refugees arrived in San Francisco in the twentieth century following the end of the Russian Civil War in 1921, after World War II ended in 1945, and in the 1970s as a direct result of anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. Several students drew a connection to the October shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, for which there is a memorial in the hallway outside the kindergarten classrooms.

We made a porridge from kasha, or buckwheat, using one part grain to two parts water. I mentioned to all our young chefs that this ratio will serve them well as they continue to learn to cook. They can make rice, lentils, couscous using this same ratio!

We topped our porridge with a simple apple salad dressed with a squeeze of lemon and cinnamon, then got to add cow or soy milk, honey, and butter. Because this was a simple meal to prepare, we had time for a rousing (but not at all Russian) game of Lotería (a Mexican game similar to bingo).

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Soup Squad Week 5B: Miso Soup

Before cooking this week, we harvested greens and herbs from the school garden, adding our own Harvey Milk twist to a miso soup. Our recipe incorporated three different types of seaweed: kombu, wakame, and nori. Each played a different role in giving the soup flavor and texture.

The kids passed around the miso paste and learned that it is made from fermented soybeans and adds saltiness and umami to the broth. Another ingredient that incited both fear and joy was the dried shiitake mushrooms.

While the kombu broth was heating, students cut up chard, dandelion greens, and collards; diced tofu; and snipped chives and tore sheets of nori for the garnish. Some chefs enjoyed the soup so much they came to Soup Squad after school three days in a row!

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 11

This week for our penultimate class, our third-grade chefs learned to make temaki, Japanese hand rolls. Students watched two videos before heading to the kitchen. One explained the fascinating history of sushi. Another featured a Japanese chef demonstrating the proper technique to make a hand roll.

In the kitchen, the kids worked on julienning, a French technique that results in long, thin strips. They have nearly perfected this now. Once the prep was complete, we each cut a sheet of seaweed in half and dipped our fingers in water before working with the sticky sushi rice. After placing a base of rice on the left side of our sheet of nori, we had a choice of seasonings like furikake and/or gomasio and fillings like carrot, cucumber, pickled ginger, green onion, tofu, pickled daikon, shiso, and sunflower sprouts.

Then it was time to roll! First we folded up from the bottom left corner to make a triangle, then we continued rolling until a cone was formed. The final step was to “glue” the last flap of seaweed down with a single grain of rice.

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Chefs in the City Week 5B: Bayview - Sweet Potato Waffles

Sweet potato waffles were on the menu this week! We visited the sunny Bayview neighborhood, which has one of the largest African-American populations in San Francisco, and where our school bus starts and ends its daily journey.

Sweet potatoes were adopted by enslaved Africans on the American continent (perhaps because they were reminiscent for some of the yams eaten in West Africa). The modern waffle originated in Western Europe and was brought by immigrants to America in the 17th century. Our sweet potato waffles represent the mixing of food cultures in colonial America. We discussed how the recipe is without a doubt delicious, but it also contains a dark story from our collective history.

Students mashed the sweet potatoes, beat egg whites until fluffy, and got a turn pouring the batter into the waffle iron. They cut up persimmons, oranges, and pomegranate (that was later used for face paint), to create a beautiful autumn fruit salad. With the smell of pumpkin pie wafting through the school, we sat down to a cozy breakfast paired with fresh sage and mint tea.

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Soup Squad Week 4B: Minestrone

This week we made a classic Italian soup, minestrone. It was a particularly fun week because one of our students brought in a giant summer squash for us to use! It fed us all week long.

By now, our chefs really understand the building blocks of soup and focus on getting the onions prepped first and browning in the pot. We added a mix of seasonal vegetables donated from Bi-Rite Market and of course our new best friend, the zucchini, followed by Great Northern beans, vegetable stock, and pasta.

We garnished the soup with fresh herbs and freshly grated parmesan. It’s been feeling very cozy in the kitchen by the time we eat in our after-school program due to the time change and the earlier sunset. We are so thankful for the time and space to make a meal and share it together during this holiday season. One of the best parts of class is having enough soup left over to feed all of the YMCA staff and other students who want to enjoy all of our chefs’ hard work!

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 10

We were happy to offer a lesson featuring lots of fresh vegetables for the kids this week as the terrible air quality continued and our bodies all felt under attack. We will end our semester with recipes from Asia and were fortunate to have a student’s mother who is Vietnamese share with us how to pronounce gỏi cuốn (spring or summer roll) and nước mắm (dipping sauce made from fish sauce). We learned how the tone you use for every syllable matters in a tonal language like Vietnamese, which is different from a non-tonal language like English.

The kids watched a video of a woman making fresh rice paper from scratch in Vietnam before we started class and shared things they noticed about the process. Then we learned the French word julienne, which means to cut into long, thin strips. A summer roll requires ingredients cut in a julienne so they don’t poke out of the delicate wrapper.

There were many shouts of disbelief when the chefs got into the kitchen and held up the dry, edible rice paper. Some said it looked like plastic. They got to work prepping all of our ingredients, which included fresh spearmint and chives from the school garden. They dipped their wrappers in a bowl of warm water, laid the wrappers on the table, filled, and rolled. One of our students who is Vietnamese proudly demonstrated his rolling skills to the whole class on Thursday. This is a fun, interactive meal that is super versatile and truly delicious. We hope you try it with your family!

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Chefs in the City Week 4B: Mission - Huevos Divorciados

This week we talked about the Mission District and how its population has changed over the past 250 years and continues to change today. We made a Mexican breakfast called huevos divorciados (“divorced eggs”), which features two fried eggs on two tortillas separated by two different salsas. Our salsa roja featured end-of-season tomatoes; our salsa verde featured tomatillos, some of which were more purple than green!

We’ve really been enjoying how relaxed and confident all of the students are in the kitchen these days. They can crack, season, and flip eggs like pros, and have been enjoying the fruits of their labor with gusto when we all sit down together to eat.

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 9

This week we celebrated both Irish and Jewish cultures by taking a staple of the Irish diet, potatoes, and transforming them into latkes, a treat traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. Students watched two videos - the first was about the Great Famine in Ireland around the mid-nineteenth century and the second told the story of Hanukkah and explained why fried foods are eaten to honor the miracle of the oil. The kids were excited to learn about the Jewish priest Judah Maccabee, who has two namesakes in the third grade at Harvey Milk.

We enjoyed hearing from many students who took great pride in sharing about their Irish or Jewish roots, and laughed at how some kids know their ancestry down to the exact percentage point. It was also fun to discover that Miss Lizzie is both Irish and Jewish.

Back in the kitchen, students carefully grated potatoes and onions, minced parsley, and measured out dry ingredients for the pancake batter. They took turns ringing out all of the liquid from the grated potatoes and onions to make sure the latkes would be nice and crispy. Then, we quickly put together the batter and fried the latkes in olive oil. Once they sizzled and turned golden brown on both sides, we ate the latkes topped with applesauce HMCRA students had made at a recent garden workday. A few chefs mentioned our meal tasted like hash browns and the inside of an apple pie. Many thanks to our friends at Bi-Rite Market for donating the beautiful apples to our program!

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Chefs in the City Week 3B: Tenderloin - Bánh Mì

This week we visited the Tenderloin neighborhood, which houses a two-block stretch known as “Little Saigon.” Vietnamese refugees arrived in San Francisco after the war in 1975 and the Tenderloin is still the best place in the city to find a cheap and delicious sandwich called a bánh mì.

Over fresh lemongrass tea, we discussed how this delightful breakfast sandwich carries within it the unhappy history of France’s colonization of Vietnam. Students noticed the influence of French cuisine in the baguette and mayonnaise, as well as a Chinese influence in the pickles, cilantro, and tofu.

Each class made its own daikon and carrot pickles to be refrigerated overnight and consumed by the next day’s class, as well as its own mayonnaise using eggs from our very own HMCRA chickens: Flossie, Shirley, and Wanda!

We stuffed our toasted baguettes with the mayonnaise, tofu, pickles, cucumber, and lots of fresh cilantro. The kids loved delivering extra bánh mì to staff around the school before morning circle.

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 8

This week we worked with a beautiful leafy vegetable from the African-American culinary tradition, collard greens. We linked the concept of dipping bread in pan juices from our experience eating injera and lentil stew from Ethiopia to the tradition of dipping cornbread into the potlikker from the slow cooking of collards in the American South. While collard greens are not native to Africa or the Americas, the dish we know today is an example of how cooks (in this case enslaved people from Africa) took a new ingredient they found in colonial America starting in the 1600s and paired it with a tradition from home (slow-cooking greens and drinking the resulting juices).

The students were very excited to work with a rare ingredient at The Breakfast Project - bacon! We all had a lot of fun ripping the greens with our hands, rendering the bacon, and tasting the final dish to adjust the seasonings. My table added a little extra apple cider vinegar at the end, and every single student asked for seconds.

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Chefs in the City Week 2B: Chinatown - Red Bean Buns

We started class this week with chrysanthemum tea, a popular drink in Chinese culture. The first neighborhood we discussed this session was San Francisco’s Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in North America. We talked about the role Chinese immigrants played in building the First Transcontinental Railroad, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the history of dim sum, which dates back to tenth-century tea houses along the Silk Road.

Students worked with a yeast dough that we had proofed in the fridge overnight, filled it with a sweet paste made from adzuki beans, and then steamed the buns in bamboo steamers. While we waited for the buns to cook, we made a smashed cucumber salad as a savory accompaniment to our meal. Smashing the cucumbers using rolling pins was a great way to get out our early-morning energy and created lots of nooks and crannies for the dressing to find, compounding the delicious flavor. Each class made the salad for the next day’s students, allowing the flavors to marinate and grow bolder overnight.

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 7

This week our third graders discussed the food of Ethiopia and made their own spice blend called berbere, added it to a spiced lentil stew called misir wot, and ate the stew with a traditional Ethiopian flatbread called injera. Both last week’s and this week’s classes featured lentils, but there was a noticeable difference in the flavor profile used in France (olive oil, Dijon mustard, thyme, red wine vinegar) versus in Ethiopia (clarified butter, a multitude of spices, heat).

The berbere our students made (and took home!) consisted of coriander, fenugreek, black peppercorns, cardamom, garlic, allspice, onion, chilis, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. After toasting the seeds and spices, they used a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients into a powder. They then made the lentil stew with plenty of the freshly ground berbere.

The final product was fragrant and delicious, especially when accompanied by the sour, fermented injera. When it was time to eat, one of our students who has Ethiopian heritage taught us how to eat the misir wot with our hands the traditional Ethiopian way by scooping up the stew with a piece of injera between our fingers!

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Chefs in the City Week 1B: Ohlone People - Strawberry Acorn Pancakes

This week marked the start of our second seven-week session of Chefs in the City! We were happy to welcome many new chefs to the kitchen. A few veteran students acted as guides by explaining the various routines of our cooking class.

As a precursor to learning about the neighborhoods of present-day San Francisco, we discussed the native Ohlone people this week. The Ohlone tribes were hunters and gatherers who ate primarily seeds, berries, and vegetables. Acorns and wild strawberries were staples, which we honored by incorporating both ingredients into a sweet and delicious pancake recipe.

Our chefs thinly cut strawberries, whisked egg whites, and helped flip their pancakes. We had enough leftover batter each day to make one final giant pancake that was then cut up and shared by all. There were few leftovers and many smiles!

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 6

We started class this week talking about the influence French cooking has had on food in the United States. A few students shared about their French heritage. Then we discussed the Le Puy lentil, which has been grown in France for over 2,000 years and is unique in its color and ability to hold its shape even when well cooked. We made a lentil salad and learned a new vocabulary word, brunoise, which refers to a culinary knife technique that results in a very small, uniform dice. Our chefs practiced with great skill a brunoise of onion, carrot, and celery.

While the lentils cooked, we made butter from scratch by shaking heavy cream (and a big pinch of salt) in a jar until it separated into the butter and buttermilk. Third graders, it turns out, are excellent jar-of-cream-shakers.

We seasoned our lentil salad with Dijon mustard (which we learned is the name of a place in France) and red wine vinegar. We ate the lentils with fresh baguette slathered with our very own butter. Next week, we will return to lentils, but with an Ethiopian twist!

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Chefs in the City Week 7A: Castro - pride parfait

Our culminating class was a celebration of the neighborhood where our students go to school, the Castro. We started off by reading the book Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno. Thursday’s class got a special treat when Mr. Michael Hampton, one of our amazing community volunteers at HMCRA, read the book to the class and added stories from his own experience living in the Castro during the 1970s when most of the events in the book occurred. The students were so excited to find out that Michael knew Harvey Milk and met Gilbert Baker, the original designer of the flag, and that he actually took part in the marches and protests depicted in the book.

We then created our own tribute to the rainbow flag by constructing a parfait using watermelon to represent red; oranges and orange zest to represent orange; bananas, lemon zest, and marigold petals to represent yellow; kiwis and lime zest to represent green; blueberries to represent blue; and Autumn Royal grapes and pansies to represent purple. All the fruit and edible flowers came from local farms and gave our young chefs plenty of opportunity to display their pro knife skills. We layered the fruit in champagne flutes with hand-whipped cream and garnished the parfaits with spearmint from our own school garden!

On Tuesday, Ms. Butler, who runs a website called Gender Inclusive Classrooms, was our special staff guest and answered student questions and helped us understand the difference between the terms sex, gender, and sexuality. Thank you to Mr. Michael, Ms. Butler, Ms. Laurence, and Ms. Reynolds for visiting and to all of our students and their families for getting to school so early these past seven weeks so that The Breakfast Project can be a vibrant place to learn and share a meal together. See you all again soon!

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 5

This week we made pupusas in celebration of the food of El Salvador. We moved our opening circles to the classroom to give everyone a chance to listen more actively with less distraction, which worked well. Students shared what they had learned about the country or something personal from their own families about Salvadoran culture.

One thing that quickly emerges when you study human history through food is how much we have in common. The foundation of the pupusa is nearly identical to that of the tortillas we made from Mexico. However, before cooking the masa dough, we filled the pupusas with fresh cheese, then closed up the filling before frying in oil.

We enjoyed our Salvadoran snack with a traditional accompaniment called curtido, a cabbage relish Ms. Katie and I made a week before to give the ingredients time to ferment and develop flavor. The result was intensely delicious and so easy to put together, we hope lots of students will try the recipe at home.

All of us at The Breakfast Project wish to give a special shoutout to our fearless classroom volunteers: Aurelie David de Lossy, Julie Wise, Cindy Peterson, and Melissa Blizzard Brown! Thank you for taking time to work and eat with our amazing third graders every week.

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Chefs in the City Week 6A: Richmond - Grechnevaya Kasha

Though Russians arrived in San Francisco before the Gold Rush, the real influx occurred in the 20th century following the Russian Civil War in the 1920s, WWII, and anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. The resulting Russian enclave in the Richmond District along Geary Boulevard and Clement Street is still thriving today, and our breakfast this week featured an ingredient, kasha, or toasted buckwheat groats, that Russians use in both sweet and savory preparations.

Students passed around the buckwheat and smelled it before we started cooking and remarked on its nutty, peanut-buttery fragrance. We mentioned that the technique of boiling water, then adding grains, bringing the mixture to a boil, then simmering in a covered pot for 15-20 minutes can also be used to cook oatmeal, rice, lentils, and couscous, for example.

This week’s class required some patience as the kasha cooked so we were able to play a rousing game of Lotería (from Mexico, not Russia) while enjoying the finished porridge with berries, date syrup, cinnamon, milk, and butter.

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3rd Grade Social Studies: Week 4

We started off this week’s class hearing from students who have visited Puerto Rico and/or have Puerto Rican heritage. On Thursday, Miss Lizzie then talked about sofrito, which forms the base of many a Latin American dish, and pique, a traditional Puerto Rican hot sauce that features hot chili peppers and herbs steeped in vinegar. The pique Ms. Katie and I made in preparation for our lesson incorporated jalepeños, serranos, and the delightfully named “fireball” pepper.

Students chopped onions and peppers and pressed a lot of garlic to create the deep flavors of the sofrito. Then we ate rice cooked with sofrito with an optional dash of pique.

We made sure to make enough for students to take a small jar of sofrito home to their families. Please let us know how you used it - we love to hear from you. Miss Lizzie taught us how Puerto Ricans express themselves when they really like something: ¡Qué chévere! 

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Chefs in the City Week 5A: Bayview - Sweet Potato Waffles

We had such a lively week, we weren’t able to take too many photos of the kids, or the beautiful waffles they made, in action. We promise to do better! (You can catch a glimpse of the finished product in the last image.)

This week we talked about the Bayview-Hunters Point, the history of African-American migration to San Francisco from the South, and the dwindling African-American population in the city over the past 40 years. The breakfast we made, sweet potato waffles, is part of the painful history of our nation. The sweet potato is native to the Americas, but enslaved people from Africa were likely the drivers of culinary innovation with the ingredient, riffing off of traditional African cuisine. The waffle came from Dutch immigrants arriving in colonial America in the early 17th century.

The kitchen smelled like Thanksgiving due to the cinnamon and cloves in our batter. Right before cooking the waffles, students folded whipped egg whites (so stiff they didn’t fall out when the bowl was turned upside down!) into the batter to make the waffles extra fluffy. We ate the warm waffles with fresh Valencia oranges and maple syrup.

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