Culinary Arts Explores Traditions in Food

Two years ago, Cleveland introduced a new elective to its roster – a culinary arts class. The course hopes to diversify the palettes of students at the high school, and teach students basic cooking skills that can be used later in life. The class is taught by Alan Joynson, who teaches two levels of culinary arts at Cleveland.

“A normal day in class either looks like breaking up into groups and making whatever dish is assigned that day or spending the period watching cooking videos and listening to Mr. Joynson  lecture on whatever subject we’re covering at the moment,” said Rosie Allison-Brown, a junior taking the class.

“When I forecasted for culinary, I wanted to pick up a few tricks about cooking to have a decent diet beyond mac and cheese and ramen when I go to college,” said sophomore Owen Wing.

This past semester, students in the class were asked to write a short article about a traditional food among their families or within a specific culture they took an interest to.

“It was just an interesting food story that I was looking for, to get them thinking about writing about food, because that is a major part of our industry; not just food writers, but chefs either writing books, or lots of other careers involving writing about food,” explained Joynson. “It also helps them to think about food in another context besides just consumption — whether it brings people together, where the food comes from as far as the culture and history, that kind of stuff.”

The story themes vary; some detail the cultures that impact Cleveland consumption habits, some explain personal family traditions, some speak about a food’s significance to a religion of Cleveland students.

“I think the intention behind it was to make us look deeper into our family’s connection with food and how it’s used to continue a generation’s worth of valued traditions,” said Allison-Brown.

Whatever the intent behind the assignment, it’s safe to say it made for some interesting and informative pieces. Continue reading to see how the culinary arts class has helped Cleveland students to educate themselves on new subjects, provoke thought, and share their knowledge with the rest of the school.


My Grandma’s Meatballs by Damon Kraft

Ever since I could remember, my grandma has made Swedish meatballs for Christmas. To say the least, they are small and delicious.

My grandma has a Norwegian and Swedish background. She cooks delectable food from both cultures, but Swedish meatballs on top of mashed potatoes plastered in gravy is her staple. No one has ever not liked her meatballs, and they will forever be the best. (Imagine the Swedish meatballs from Ikea, but 10 times better and with homemade gravy and potatoes.)

All in all, these meatballs are excellent, and could probably turn a vegetarian into a carnivore.


Bubble Tea by Lidiya Khoroshenkikh

Lately, I’ve been starting to try different food from different countries, and one drink that really interested me which was bubble tea or boba. Bubble tea existed in Taiwan and the tea-based drink was invented in Taichung in the 1980s. When you look at bubble tea places, you can see many flavors of boba such as watermelon, pomegranate, and passion fruit, but bubble tea places also offer jellies that substitute the boba. But how do you make it at home?

Making boba at home was a really good experience for me and only took 30 minutes to make. The hardest part of making bubble tea was the liquid, which can be a juice, tea, or smoothie. At boba places, people add flavoring to the drink, which gives the bubble tea a flavored gum taste. Of course, you can make normal black tea or even coffee, but if you’re like me and don’t like tea, you can make a simple smoothie (but not too thick). When you buy the actual boba, it will most likely be dry, gray, hard, small, and not sweet. It only turn out good-tasting when you boil the tapioca, which is what the boba is made from, and let it steam for 20 minutes. Then only by adding brown sugar will the boba turn out tasty.

If you compare the drink from bubble tea cafes and homemade bubble tea, I would say that the homemade boba itself tastes better. At home, you can add more or less brown sugar based on your taste. What bubble tea places win at is their juice or tea because of the taste. Bubble tea places have a variety of different flavors that people probably don’t have at home. So, in conclusion, both of them have really good bubble tea.


Family Dinner by Samuel Boghossian

Four very different people live in my house.  For starters, my dad seems to be on a different diet every week–I think this week’s is a paleo diet, but don’t quote me on it. My sister won’t eat anything spicy, and depending on what’s for dinner, occasionally says she is a vegetarian.  My mom can’t eat dairy or anything with too much sugar, and she says she can’t eat chicken or lamb, but I have my suspicions about the latter. And then there’s me, Eat-Anything-Sam, an innocent bystander in the all out food war that has erupted within our house.

Anyway, you can see why preparing a meal, even a small one, might be such a challenge, so here are a few dishes my family has come to learn—through much trial and error—will satisfy all of our (ever-evolving) needs.

One: “The Eggplant Dish.”

This was originally my grandma’s recipe.  She was from Greece, and thus had amazing taste. It has now been adapted by my father to be more American, easier to cook, and in line with his diet(s).

To make it, he first yells at me and sister to unload the dishwasher, take out the trash, and then vacate the kitchen. Afterwards, he dices an onion, cuts up an eggplant into one inch by one inch cubes, browns some hamburger, and tosses it all into a pan with tomato sauce. He then bakes it at 350 degrees for an hour. (We used to add cheese on top, but then the whole dairy thing came into play).

Two: “The Dreaded Stir Fry.”

This is my mother’s recipe, and this is what we eat when there is ABSOLUTELY NO alternative. It involves whatever leftovers might be in the fridge, (usually broccoli, tofu, carrots, onion, and any other vegetables that are around). These ingredients are then stirred into a pan with far too much soy sauce over medium high heat, and served over rice. Now, I’m a good son, so all I’ll say is thank god for the rice.

Three: “Burgerville.” (but don’t tell my parents).

Sometimes, a guy just has to eat.

So, now you have a sense of the challenges we face and the strategies we employ.  Feel free to adapt any of these dishes as you will to help you navigate any family dinners of your own.


Why Do Many Young Americans Have an Unhealthy Relationship to Food? by Luca Gregston

At Cleveland High School, there are two McDonald’s locations, a Taco Bell, and a 7/11, all nearby. Some teenagers report going to McDonald’s because it is “cheaper;” it costs very little to “grab” breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Kids leave their fruit and salads untouched, and only eat foods that are unhealthy. The American relationship to food is becoming unhealthy and causing food disorders and obesity. It’s not just what we eat, but the way we eat that matters.

Even though it has been proven to be unhealthy to eat quickly, American school lunches only last from 20 to 30 minutes. Compared to the rest of the world, this is not the case. Little time to eat trains American students to plow down their food instead of savoring it. Unfortunately, this unhealthy habit continues into later life.

Furthermore, the food fed to children is usually all junk. Any student enrolled in the public school system knows that school lunches are mostly garbage, and even if they aren’t, students won’t eat the healthy food. They are trained at home not to. Fast food, which evolves from a tasty treat to a daily meal, is already not nutritious, and eating it quickly is not good for you either.

It is undoubtable: Many Americans maintain very unhealthy diets. One question, however, remains: Is it the fault of schools? Parents put a certain trust in the school system to educate their kids about many things, including eating. Yet, even though educators preach about the necessary food grounds, the school system has not realized that students need more time to eat and digest. The reason behind the madness is obvious: The school will not add meal time because of the teachers’ salaries. Our students are suffering because of their greed.

In other countries, students have more time to eat. In France, a student has a one and a half hour lunch break. That gives them time to sit down, eat a couple of courses, and visit with other students and sometimes teachers.

In France, kids will eat a variety of things because there is no separate “kids’ food.” Traditionally, parents expect their kids to eat what they are eating. This is not the case in the U.S. In school, at least there are guidelines. The food guidelines are important because they define a “balanced” meal. Even so, many teenagers hate it and avoid going to school lunches, heading for McDonald’s or 7/11 instead. They go to outside places and it is usually the cheapest and the closest place to school. Some students bag their lunch. It depends on the person and/or the family. Of course, there are parents that teach their kids to eat healthy meals, slowly.

Americans could learn an important lesson from the French about slowing down when you eat. Maybe Portlanders, with all our restaurants and food diversity, could set an example.