Professor Louisa Aleixo’s Students Compile Story-Recipe Cookbook

Image: Louisa Aleixo

Image: Louisa Aleixo

Inspired by the various creativity initiatives discussed at our past several FHASS meetings, Professor Louisa Aleixo recently developed and implemented a student assignment that successfully combined food, culture, storytelling, and communication skills in her intermediate ESL course. The collaborative result of the class’s effort—a cookbook called Tastes From Around the World—offers, well, tastes from around the world, from and by the students themselves. Louisa explains:

As part of an ESL Intermediate consolidation practice activity, the students were asked to give a small process presentation of a recipe that represented their culture. The assignment was broken into three parts which consisted of a historical reference of the recipe’s origins, a personal story which reflected how the food was important for the student and finally, the recipe given with instruction and a passive format. Contrary to a presentation with merely a simple process, this assignment provided for an exciting class where students engaged and shared stories of how their cultural food was an important part of their heritage, family and personal experience. In the end we decided to put together these stories and recipes into a class cookbook. I hope you will enjoy the stories and recipes as much as we did!

Below are just two examples of her students’ work from Tastes From Around the World. Thanks to Louisa and her students, Charles Pan and Hee Won Kang.

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The Taste of Life: Mudskipper Tofu Soup

By Charles Pan

When I thought about this topic in the very beginning, I kept thinking about which recipe could represent my life. Then an idea came to me. I remembered that a month after I had arrived in Canada, my mom called me, and asked, 你住的服吗?This question can be translated into: have you adapted to the environment? The meaning suggests my relationship to the earth, should be like a subject facing his king. Obey. Absolutely obey. It is the typical eastern wisdom: wherever you live, show absolute respect to the land first. Therefore, my recipe comes from where I lived before.

                                                                             The history

There is a proverb in China: 靠山吃山,靠海吃海. It is said, if you live near the mountain your life will depend on the mountain; if you live near the sea, your life should depend on the sea.

My hometown, Ningbo is a famous coastal city in China. When I was a child, our life was not like today’s China, we didn’t have industry or factory, of course you couldn’t see so many ‘made in china’ at that time as well; and our life almost completely depended on the earth especially the East China Sea.

Mudskipper is one of our favorite fish and is very common in East China Sea. It can be easily caught even by children. Tofu is the most popular food for Chinese as well. Therefore the mudskipper tofu soup is also the favorite dish in our daily life.  Not everything has an exact history, such as my favorite family dish mudskipper tofu soup. Despite its informal history, I believe its taste has been as long as our lives. The people who lived along the coast are mild and moderate, and their persistence to the tradition has allowed them to enjoy the life on their flavor. Almost every household in Ningbo understands how to make a delicious fish soup. Seafood is a must in the lives of my hometown, and this kind of cuisine has always been the most distinctive identity of Ningbo. It gives us a special taste, flavor and look. Now we all call it the “cuisine of home”.

                                                                  My cuisine story

Sometimes our memory takes us back to a specific thing. It could be a person, a house, a riverside-tree or even an unforgettable taste. For me this special taste was rooted in my heart as a memory of home with all my life experience.

When I was a child, I lived in an isolated rural village near the sea. I had never seen a store, and we never bought foods in variety as well. So, all our cuisine was made by ourselves. In China, around 1980s was a special time. Private business or factories were forbidden. Food supply was extremely limited.

Because of that, I always went to the coastal mud in the summer time or on the weekend. We could always catch a lot of fishes. The mudskipper was the most popular. Whoever you were, the old fish man always taught you how to know the ebbs and flows, and we looked at the tides as our friend; we learned to respect our nature. We were taught the sea has been feeding us from long long ago.

As usual, after the tide went, we buried a bamboo pipe under the mud. Then we would play with our little buddies in the mud. Two hours later, when we saw the tide coming back, we would run on the mud to quickly drive for the fish. Because we had buried the pipe, the mudskipper hurried jumped into our trap. We could always catch a basket full of fish.

It would be a delicious evening. We would sell some fish and leave some for dinner. My mother already prepared some tofu for mudskipper. It was the tastiest soup and I would never forget, because it was made from our hard work and told a story of childhood fun.

                                        Recipe of Mudskipper tofu soup

Ingredients

  1. 8-10 washed fresh mudskipper fishes
  2. 5kg tofu
  3. Scallions, gingers and garlic
  4. A little Ham and mushroom

Preparation

  1. The mudskipper should be cleaned.
  2. The mushroom should be soaked for 15mins until it soft enough.
  3. Stir the mudskipper in the rapeseed oil, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes over medium-high heat.
  4. Put a large piece of tofu into the pot with mushroom, ham and 2 bowls of water.
  5. Cook for 25 min. then put all the scallions, gingers and garlic into the soup, cook for 1min.
  6. Put a little salt

Today, we have many choices of food, but I believe this kind of traditional foods is still influencing us, not only for the unique flavor, but also for emotion and love.

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Tteokguk

By Hee Won Kang

History

SEOL-NAL IS LUNAR NEW YEAR’S DAY IN KOREA. IT IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST HOLIDAYS, BASED ON AGRICULTURAL RITES AND POPULAR BELIEFS. TRADITIONALLY, FOODS OF SEOL-NAL ARE VARIOUS. HOWEVER, TTEOKGUK IS THE MOST COMMON FOOD IN ANY REGION. IT IS A SOUP MADE WITH SLICED RICE CAKE. THE RICE CAKE SLICES HAVE AN OVAL SHAPE WHICH SYMBOLIZES A BRIGHT AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR. TTEOKGUK IS REFERRED TO IN AN 1849 BOOK OF CUSTOMS, DONGGUKSESIGI (東國歲時記). THIS BOOK SAYS THAT THERE IS A CUSTOM OF HAVING A BOWL OF RICE CAKE SOUP (TTEOKGUK) IN THE MORNING OF NEW YEAR’S DAY TO GET A YEAR OLDER. THEREFORE, OLD PEOPLE USUALLY SAY “HOW MANY BOWLS OF TTEOKGUK HAVE YOU EATEN?” WHEN THEY ASK PERSON’S AGE.

My Story

When I was 5 years old, I went to my grandmother’s house to celebrate the New Year’s Day as most Koreans do. And, we had a small party with our entire family. I have always been loved by my family but especially when I was a little girl. My grandmother particularly cherished me. One of the reasons was that I would react well when they pulled my leg. Furthermore, I used to believe what they said. As usual, they started to cheat me. My grandma said “Hee Won! Do you know that if you eat a bowl of rice cake soup, you will get a year older?” She added, “And, your age will depend on how many bowls you have! It means that if you have three bowls you will be able to go to elementary school!” As a child, I really wanted to be an adult. And, I imagined going to school and I was so excited that I believed what grandma said. In Korea, interestingly, when a baby is born, he or she is automatically one year old. And, all Korean’s ages change on January 1st. I started to eat and eat and eat…When I stopped eating, my brother counted the bowls that I had had. And he screamed, “Mommy! She has eaten 5bowls!!” Yes, I had. And like a lie, nothing happened. I was still a poor kindergardener. Maybe I cried the next day when I realized my grandma had teased me. This is one of my best memories and I really like this story even though at the time I didn’t enjoy the experience.

Ingredients

Soup:

1/2 pound (230 grams) beef brisket

1/2 medium onion
5 – 6 cloves of garlic
3 scallions – white parts
1 – 2 tablespoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and pepper
1 egg
1 scallion

1/2 sheet seaweeds (nori)

4 cups sliced Garae Tteok (rice cake)

How to Cook

  1. Soup

First, the beef needs to be soaked in cold water for at least 30 minutes, because the beef’s blood should be removed so that the broth is clear. Second, 14 cups of water have to be poured into a large pot for the best flavor. Also, 1/2 onion, 3 scallions and 3 to 6 garlic should be put into the pot as well. Then the pot should be simmered on medium to low heat for 30 minutes for a more neutral flavor. Third, all ingredients in the pot should be discarded to avoid leaving murky stock. Finally, add soy sauce, salt, and pepper into the pot to taste.

  1. Garnish (Jidan[egg])

First, an egg has to be separated in 2 the parts, yolks and whites so that we can make two colours of garnish. Yolks should be scrambled with a spoon until smooth. Second, place a wide frying pan over medium-low heat until hot. And, put oil into the pan a lightly. Third, pour each egg part into a thin layer, tilting the skillet and spreading with a spoon. Each side of the egg should be cooked until no visible liquid remains. Finally, cut the egg into short thin strips.

  1. Garnish (Beef, Scallion and Gim)

First, the cooled beef should be shred into thin about 1-inch long strips so that it’s easy to eat. And, it is combined well with garlic, sesame oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Second, slice the scallion diagonally into thin strips. Third, Gim (seaweed) has to be cut into 1-inch strips with scissors.

  1. Final

Return to the ingredients to the broth to a boil. Add the rice cake slices and boil until soft. (It usually takes 5 to 8 minutes)

Finally, put the Tteoguk into individual bowls and add the garnish; two parts of the egg, Gim, scallion, and Beef.

Enjoy your meal 🙂

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