Monday, May 12, 2008

OMG, lemons grow on trees?!

The I-pod generation is becoming so divorced from their alimentary reality.

Last year, I had a student (bless her shallow heart) who, one day in class, yelled out "oh my gosh, lemons grow on trees?!"

Allow me to contextualize. I was discussing with the students how varied in climate France is: "for example, here in the south, it's kind of like California--there are palm trees, they grow olives, and there are lemon trees..."

That is when the sixteen-year-old blurted out her ignorance. Granted--Washington state is not a citrus-region, but come on, girl--how else do you think lemons grow!? I mean, you're SIXTEEN! You know how to upload free movies onto your I-pod, your thumbs blur across your cellphone as you text (note how that word is now a verb), but you don't know where fruit comes from?!

Half the class immediately busted out laughing. The other half (giggling nervously, so as not to be left out) were as clueless as she was. 'Well, then, how does spaghetti grow?' Really.

For the record, then, here is a lemon (just outside our bedroom window) and a lemmon-blossom, growing on a tree:
Smelling this lemon-blossom the other day reminded me of last-year's classroom citrus fiasco...which in turn reminds me of a more recent student-blurt-out, here in Tucson, from a couple of weeks ago.

Every day, "Channel One" is broadcast during the school's announcement-period. One of the recent news-pieces was about the growing world-wide food crisis...and so riots caused by rising rice-prices were mentioned...and I heard a student ask another student--'so, what is rice--is it like pasta, do you make it from something else?'

Wow. This, here in Tucson, where a good chunk of the populace eats arroz y frijoles daily.

But then again, this being the desert, there are no rice-paddies here.
So, I thought--this is a teachable moment, and although rice-agriculture is not technically part of my curriculum, I have a moral obligation to set the kids straight.

Paddies, people, paddies. It grows in water. Rice is not made from something else--it is a grain, like wheat--the seed of a specially-domesticated grass. (Believe it or not, I'm not condescending to my students; I've yet to be hit with spitballs, so I guess they don't hate me.)

The summer between 8th and 9th grades, I spent a month in this village south of Seoul, where my grandmother was living, and I became intimately acquainted with the humid, green, terraced paddies:

Several years later, I returned in the autumn and saw the entire countryside, paddies dry, covered in fields of gold--rice, waiting to be harvested:
I asked my students--hey, just for 'fun,' ask around, ask your classmates and friends "hey, do you know where rice comes from?" A couple of my students, a couple of days later, reported that very few are paddy-aware.

(I also asked them, no joke, 'how do beans grow?' on trees? I demonstrated the facetious harvesting-technique--and not everybody realized right away that I was joking. "jk" in their text-parlance.)

Alas, they are of the generation who have grown up with this evolutionary paradigm:

(cartoon from a New Yorker a few months ago)

I have a bit of botanical-ignorance of my own to fess up to, now.
I didn't know that lettuce, when left alone, will eventually produce these pretty yellow flowers:

Yep, I'm still being an at-home-camera-nerd in our little patio-garden...and our salad-greens have gone to seed.


To end these edu-culinary-ruminations on a lighter note--here's a magazine ad for a cable-tv-food-show that caught my eye a few weeks ago while I was 'biking' at the gym:

Yes, I tore it out, brought it home, and scanned it into my computer.

I love it.

Cuy--the Andean Spanish word for guinea pig. Originally domesticated to be a meat-source, à la chicken.

And yes, I've tried it. You guessed it--tastes like chicken.

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