Seneca Valley students prepare, enjoy cuisine from around the globe
Students from Seneca Valley's German language classes may have mumbled the compliment “sehr gut” between bites of tasty desserts prepared in the intermediate high school's Consumer Science kitchen just the day before.
Along with the sweets, language students will learn about the recipes from the young chefs themselves.
In honor of National Foreign Language Week this week, teachers have teamed up to highlight the theme, “Foreign Languages: They Nourish the Brain.”
And what better way to spread the best of any culture than with some of the traditional foods that sustain the citizens of France, Ireland, England, Scotland, Spain, Mexico, Switzerland, Austria and Germany.
Through language, cooking and fun facts, students were given a taste of the world.
Diversity units also were taught in family sociology classes, and leadership students learned about foreign universities and studying abroad.
“They're super excited,” said Carrie Mann, family and consumer science teacher, of her students. “They love cooking.”
Inside her classroom, teams of students were busy preparing spaetzle, sachertorte, streusel bundt cake and apfel kuchen from traditional Austrian, German and Swiss recipes. The fragrance of apples and cinnamon filled the kitchen.
Marie McLachlan had led her students through the same steps during morning classes.
While Eddie Jenkins, 14, stirred the chocolate that would be a part of the Austrian sachertorte with its apricot preserves layers, his teammates, Taylor Askey and Tom Streit, worked on the batter.
Jenkins, from Seven Fields, enjoys cooking and is eager to make another chocolate mousse for the French class. In fact, according to Mann, the freshman hopes one day to study culinary arts in France.
Freshmen Nick Green of Seven Fields and Joe Hartman of Zelienople were part of the spaetzle crew.
“It's like making pasta,” said Green, of the rich egg noodles that will be served with cheese and onions.
He looked up from the sink as he washed some mixing bowls.
“I also do dishes at home,” the 15-year-old said.
The cooking classes are electives at Seneca Valley, so male and female students can learn side by side.
In Mann's seventh-period class, more males tie on their aprons each day.
“The boys enjoy being hands on,” Mann, 29, from Moon Township said, adding there are more professional male chefs than females.
“Making food is fun, and you can always use culinary skills,” said Jacob King, a freshman from Cranberry.
Not only was his team's apfel kuchen fresh from the oven, he remembered one of Mann's stories about German women and their dirndls. In the Old Country, women could indicate their dating availability by choosing which side to tie the bow on their skirts.
Along with the cooking, Erin Mallen loved learning about how one German king invented a toast for his benefit.
If someone had poisoned his drink, he thought, a raucous clinking of the goblets would distribute some of the poison to the others, thereby, insuring the king's safety.
While other students might take family sociology, art or computer classes as electives, Mallen, a freshman from Zelienople, is eager to take another cooking class next year.
“My mom's Filipino, and she can cook phenomenal,” said Nate Kouns, a 15-year-old freshman from Cranberry, “and my dad makes steaks and ribs.”
From his parents he takes inspiration and a confidence into the kitchen.
His favorite foods are Thai dishes of Indo-fried rice, lumpia and chicken adobo, now a part of his family's tradition.
Both consumer science teachers were happy to work this collaboration during National Foreign Language Week.
From all her foreign travels and with 15 years as a consumer science teacher, McLachlan, 58, from Ellwood City, understands the importance of showing students points of unity from around the world through kitchen crafts.
“(The students) don't know anything when they come to us,” she said. “They learn the basics to live on their own, so they don't have to rely on restaurant chains to feed themselves.”
But from a student's perspective, it's even more practical: “I love this class,” said Parker Faix, a sophomore from Cranberry.
“We get to eat.”
Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.