It was great fun welcoming the third graders to the kitchen classroom this week! We will be exploring change and continuity in our city over time and how conflict over who can claim ownership of the soil started hundreds of years ago and continues to this day. We started with a circle where students shared what they knew about the history of San Francisco (e.g. that the land used to be predominantly marshland, that the city was once called “Yerba Buena”) and questions they had about the history of San Francisco (e.g. Did Columbus land in the Bay Area? and How did the first people get here?).
Our first class focused on the indigenous people of San Francisco, broadly called the Ohlone, and what they ate and continue to eat. We talked about hunter-gatherer societies and native plants, and watched a video about two Ohlone chefs who are reviving native Bay Area food traditions at a cafe in Berkeley. In the kitchen, students tore sorrel, dandelion leaves, and watercress into bite-sized pieces, chopped edible roots and fruits, and plucked edible flower petals. They made a dressing in a mortar and pestle with the sorrel, onion, and local honey, and tea with the aforementioned yerba buena, rosehip, white sage, and California bay laurel.
The ingredient the third graders seemed most excited about were quail eggs, which Ms. Stuti and I had soft-boiled prior to class so students could peel and chop them and add them to the salad. Several students remarked that it would have been very exciting to discover quail eggs if you were hunting for food out in the wild! We expressed gratitude for all the people who’ve come before us who figured out what foods in nature are edible and nutritious and passed this important knowledge down to us through the generations. When I went to Cafe Ohlone recently, Vincent Medina asked the guests to spread the word that the Ohlone are here and thriving, that their culture is not in the past tense. I can think of no better way to do this than to work with the same plants people have been eating in San Francisco for thousands of years and to share a traditional tea together as a San Francisco public school community.