Using Our Noodles to Write

“Umami is the savoury meatiness in seaweed and miso and soy sauce. It is, to a large extent, the concept that enables Japanese cuisine to be healthy and attractive at the same time.”
― Bee Wilson

This year marks my 20th year teaching English at Gwinn High School. I have been creating content on this blog for nine. Over the years I have shared various blog posts with my students and discussed how blogging is a modern platform to publish our writing.

My final hour of the day I teach creative writing. This year my students are truly a hoot. They are as silly as they are creative and they are equally kind and exuberant. We truly are a community of writers in 7th hour and it’s a joy to end my day with such a unique and creative group of students.

Teaching during a pandemic has come with its challenges. I have been teaching both face-to-face and online since September. I had to teach 100% remotely when we were shut down for 6 weeks in November.

My goal for creative writing is to give my students the opportunity to try different genres, to be creative, and to understand that their words and voices matter. Since many of my students take creative writing multiple years (some every year) I try not to do the same assignments each year. I embrace the challenge of coming up with new curriculum.

The other day in class I asked them if they had ever seen the popular vlogger Emmymade. A couple of the students had and others had not, so we watched a few of her videos. On Emmy’s blog she shares the following statement, “Whether it’s trying to figure out if it’s really worth it to wait a hundred hours for a batch of brownies, finding out what Ranch gummies or giant centipedes taste like, making mayonnaise from a vintage gadget, or tasting desserts and dishes from around the world, I want to learn about our world through food.”

My students, just like myself, were inspired by Emmy’s relaxed delivery, her vast vocabulary, and her culinary knowledge. My students were especially intrigued by her ramen posts.

Watching Emmy’s videos with my students and learning that quite a few of them like to create gourmet meals out of instant ramen was a lightbulb moment for me. I came up with the idea that we could create a “ramen bar” in class and my students could create their own recipes. We could research Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cuisine and they could write about their own food experiences and share their ramen recipes on my blog.

However, this is where I need a little help. I posted a project on Donors Choose to buy ramen making supplies. I tried to include some ingredients that many of my students have not been exposed to in our rural area. In addition to these ingredients I will bring in fresh spinach and greens, vegetables, and boiled eggs (from our farm) to include in their ramen meals. These supplies would create quite a few batches of ramen, so it will be a special treat for my students who have worked so hard this year.

If you are interesting in donating, here is the project –> Using Our Noodles to Write. Every dollar helps and is tax deductible. Donors Choose has been a huge source of light for my classroom practice and I am so thankful to the generosity of friends, family, and even strangers who have helped so many of our projects come to fruition.

As we head off to spring break in a couple of days, our fingers are crossed that this project will be funded. I am excited to see what my creative students come up with and I cannot wait to share their ramen recipes with you.

Do you have a favorite ramen recipe? What tips of tricks do you have for perking up packets of instant ramen? I would love to learn from you and share your ideas with my students.

Writing Prompt: The Kitchen Table

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
–Joy Harjo

As a writing teacher, I often use food as a prompt to help my students capture their stories. Food is universal and we have an intimate connection to the food that surrounds us.

Not only am I a food blogger, but I think that food helps a writer tap into their senses. Food is smell, taste, sounds, and texture. Food is comfort, culture, community, family, and a way to celebrate and nurture others. It even has historical connections and socio-economic implications.

While there are many emotional associations with food – the places where we congregate to eat also hold the power of stories. Joy Harjo’s poem, Perhaps the World Ends Here, is a powerful companion piece and testament to the importance of the kitchen table.

This is the prompt that I gave my creative writing students this fall (right around Thanksgiving):

The Kitchen Table

Our kitchen tables are a sacred space. A hub where we can gather with loved ones and celebrate in our abundance. In our home, the kitchen table is a verb and not a noun. In our house the kitchen table is a place where our children learn responsibility, and manners; they learn and grow by engaging in conversation, helping prepare meals, setting the table, and helping clean up after. It is also the place where homework is mulled over, canvases are covered with paint, Legos are stacked, manicures are glossed, and dinosaurs are sketched. It is a place where our cell phones and tablets are put away and we give each other our undivided attention. Our table is where we pass the seasons, celebrate in the harvest of our summer garden, and hold family meetings.

Growing up my family embraced visitors at our kitchen table with bottomless cups of strong coffee, homemade baked goods, and as a child it is where I learned to value of the power of stories. At times I was excused, if the conversation was not fit for small ears, but the majority of the time I was a welcome participant in a glorious mix of laughter and a legacy of tales from the past.

The kitchen table is where we mourned the loss of my grandparents, welcomed the hearty appetites of friends who helped my father raise the trusses on our new home, and where my mom fed my teenage friends after the Homecoming dance. It was the where we sustained life.

The center of our families, our homes, and our most treasured conversations occur at the kitchen table. We discuss the vibrant color of sautéed asparagus, the deep laugh of a deceased grandfather; or sit quietly, alone, worrying about our children at 3:00 am.

Write a poem, or narrative, about the metaphorical significance of a kitchen table (or another household object or piece of furniture) using Joy Harjo’s poem, Perhaps the World Ends Here, as inspiration.

Since many of my students have shared that due to busy schedules (sports practice, extra curricular activities, parents working shift work, or family members simply preparing their own food  separately and taking to their rooms or other living areas to eat) that they rarely eat together at the kitchen table (though that in itself would make a powerful piece of writing). However, I tell the students they could also write about another piece of furniture or household object: a grandfather clock, a piano, a Mason jar, or a rocking chair.

If you found inspiration from this prompt for yourself or your students, please let me know!

Don’t forget to check out my sister blog for healthy food recipes and lifestyle tips;

No dining experience is complete without flowers. These wildflowers foraged from our backyard are on-top of my Great Grandmother’s handmade lace doilies. Like our writing, it’s the details that matter. 

Homemade Pizza Night several years ago.

When my step daughter was younger, she always made place cards for family members.

Candles with roses and blooms from my garden.

My Fiestaware dishes haven’t been used enough recently.