21 March 2008

School Food I: introduction

Next week, the new season of the project I work for, Cultures Interactive, is going to start for me. It means I will prepare a workshop about 'food', called Gefundenes Fressen, grab all the things I need, put them in a van and drive into the German province.
There, I will spend two days on a school, trying to educate young Germans about food in a broad sense. I will make them think about the things they eat every day, thereby discussing such themes as: what does "taste" mean and how is it cultivated? Where does my food come from? Who prepares it? Which claims are made on packages and are they true? We will not only talk, but also try out different things, with as most popular item the blind testing of different tomato soups according to self-set criteria. Also, they will cook soup themselves; it might be it is the first time they cook at all, or they can use their cooking skills in teaching the others.

The project is aiming for a long-term change in the region, seen from the perspective of the school kids we work with. We ask them for their needs and let them work on it on their own initiative. For instance, if a group is formed with an expressed interest in things food-related, I meet them once in a while and support them where they need, be it with additional workshops, talking to 'important adults' or making general arrangements.

The idea for this workshop, which I did twice so far, came from experience and of course my usual interest in food. The experience I gathered while traveling schools in Germany and seeing what the children eat in their breaks. From the Girl Power workshops I mainly provided so far, came stories about dieting: many young girls told about their diets, whereas, to my opinion, dieting for them is absolutely unnecessary for a number of reasons - first and foremost, bodies that young still are growing and need nutritients, yet ideals about the ideal body tell the girls otherwise. I noticed they went often into dieting without background about nutrition - and think that eating 'just' a candybar in breaks is a good way to lose weight. Often they seemed to have no idea about food or at least have no critical stance towards it.

Experiences thus came from the classroom but also from outside of it. On the days our team spends on a school and the village it is in, we find ourselves fully immersed in the local food culture. In our short breaks, we eat whatever the school offers us (but I also always take care to bring emergency stuff in case the school didn't think about us, something I never take for granted). And often, this means we eat in the school mensa where we eat the same food as the school kids. And we eat our dinners in the restaurants in the village. This provides an excellent insight in German food culture, and I am always tempted to document it.

And so I will, here. This is a "best of" of last year. I made pictures of food we were served at different schools in Germany.

My favorite picture of last year was of the one thing I could not eat. You see, working from 7.30 in the morning until 13.00 in the afternoon without a break makes a bit hungry. So mostly everything which is offered, I eat. Except from this thing, which was served to me on a school in Halle-Neustadt. It is called Germknödel mit Vanillesauce. It is supposed to be cooked dough with a sweet filling, accompanied by vanilla sauce. This particular exemplar proved to be very chewy, with a slimy, lukewarm, way too sweet sauce. I took one bite and chose to stay hungry. (Also in the knowledge that in Halle there is one of the best vegetarian fast food places I've come across.)
The Thing "germinating" in all its slimy g(l)ory:

And in all its radiating innocence:
That was Halle. Radiating sauce seems to be a common feature in German school mensas, as proved Kranichfeld. This picture from the school there also shows the care for vegetarians which I often encounter in such places (on a school somewhere in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, there was no vegetarian food whatsoever, so I chose to eat the poor option, i.e. my emergency bread with spread. I sat in the mensa and was told to leave, as only the food sold there was allowed to be eaten).

Yes, Germans like potatoes.
Then, I can't remember where this was:
But it made my colleagues have their battle between hunger and taste:

Sometimes, schools are so nice to prepare breakfast for us and this can be really surprisingly good. There is care and love in it. And yes, they like bread and wurst, and no, I am not always sarcastic. I have tasted many bread rolls (Brötchen, or Schrippen in Berlin) and my favorite are the ones from Thüringen. This was in Grabow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (and there was a lot more on the table!).

Sometimes, I do have some free time to walk around and explore the little villages we are often in. I discovered that Germany has many idyllic and cute towns which I would never go to otherwise, so I am happy I have this possibility. Trying the local food is interesting. I will conclude with a picture made in the beautiful Ludwigslust, where I had a double espresso that was not too bad (I am spoiled when it comes to coffee, and hotels we stay in hardly ever provide the strong stuff I grew used to), before exploring the supermarket, another thing I love to do.
So this will be a start for the project that has been in my head since a while. To be continued soon!

1 comment:

Becca said...

Good for people to know.