CommunityShare is an education initiative working to connect schools and communities. CommunityShare’s online platform matches educators with community partners in Tucson who want to serve as mentors, guest speakers, class project consultants, internship hosts, and field trip sponsors. “The platform is a like a ‘human library’ that empowers teachers and their students to tap into local ‘human books’ of wisdom and experience,” said Josh Schachter, the founder and director of CommunityShare.
According to Schachter, CommunityShare helps students see the real-world application of what they’re learning in school, exposes them to new career possibilities, and helps them to discover their own passions. “As a kid I rarely understood why I was learning things or why things mattered. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school when I apprenticed with a herpetologist that I unearthed a deeper purpose for learning. I found myself knee-deep in mud, researching turtles and alligator nests in South Carolina and Alabama, which eventually led me to a career in ecosystem management,” he says. “Today, there are way too many students in my shoes, as 40 to 60 percent of students in the U.S. are chronically disengaged in school.”
Edible Baja Arizona worked with two seventh-grade classrooms at Apollo Middle School to help students tell stories about their most memorable food experiences. Students learned basic storytelling techniques, including the five W’s taught in all introductory journalism classes (who, what, when, where, why), character development, and narrative structure (every story has a beginning, middle, and end). Over the course of two classroom visits, Edible Baja Arizona editor Megan Kimble encouraged students to use vivid, specific words to describe taste and smell, to use metaphors and similes, and to explore why a particular food was so memorable. The following essays come from Michelle Sotelo’s classroom.
When I arrived home, the whole house smelled like a fish market. As I walked into the kitchen, I saw my nana serving my family. They announced, “Here comes Ms. Picky Eater! Don’t serve her because she won’t like it.”
I hated when Nana put fish in food that looked good. I glared at her with a stank face, and she just laughed. However, I was so hungry that I decided to try nana’s taco. The tortilla was warm and soft and filled with tender fish and shrimp. It was drizzled with a creamy, orange sauce with a spicy taste. The variety of flavors made my mouth water and my taste buds tingle. The taco made me drool with delight, and my nana smiled when she realized I loved the taco.
Nana said there was fish, shrimp, media crema, butter, garlic salt, and pepper in the taco. She added a can of salsa casera, and a little bit of jalapeño to make it spicy. Although there weren’t many ingredients, the bite filled my mouth with delicious flavors. It made me wonder why I hadn’t tried them before.
Now that I do not live with my nana, I don’t eat the delicious fish and shrimp tacos as often. I hope that when I grow up and have children, they can taste the delicious fish and shrimp tacos that I grew up with.
It was a cold, breezy autumn afternoon in Agua Prieta. I was 7 years old when my whole family reunited at Rugus La Palapa. This was the first time I had been with my whole family from my Dad’s side. My family wanted to eat mariscos, so we ordered a humongous plate of seafood known as a mariscada.
The mariscada of a million colors and flavors consisted of huge shrimp, fried shrimp, fried octopus tentacles, fried squid tentacles, and fish fillets. I loved everything on that mariscada, except the octopus and squid. I always thought that their tentacles would get stuck to my throat and I would have to have surgery to get them unstuck. My tata proposed a deal. He said he would give me $5 if I ate one octopus tentacle, so I agreed. I took one bite of that tentacle and it felt as if I was eating a big, green, slimy booger. It tasted raw compared to how the other ones looked. That was the worst thing I have ever tasted.
A few years later, in a restaurant in Puerto Peñasco, I ordered a Seven Mares soup. I didn’t know exactly what it had inside at the time, but I ate it anyways. It was delicious. I loved every part of it. Until I bit into something squishy. Rapidly, the memories from eating that octopus came rushing in. As I chewed and chewed, I was actually surprised: It wasn’t disgusting, it was delicious.
There it wassitting on the table begging for me to eat it. I placed the fragile buñuelo in my hand and I walked to the pot and drizzled some of the hot sticky syrup on it. The syrup landed on the buñuelo in a perfectly checkered pattern. The buñuelo was hot and had the perfect thickness. I took the first bite. The warm sticky syrup dripped down from the corners of my lips. The music perfectly matched the moment. A delightful aroma entered my nose with the next bite. I observed all the joyful faces around me. It was Christmas Eve and my family was gathered around the fire at my grandmother’s house. We were devouring our buñuelos.
My grandmother would make a sweet brown syrup that goes on a fried tortilla. Then she would add powdered sugar, making the perfect flavor for any mouth. The crunchy tortilla drizzled in warm syrup with sugar on top made the perfect combination for a Christmas treat. After my grandmother was done making buñuelos, the kitchen was filled with a lovely aroma.
Unfortunately my grandmother passed away, and buñuelos don’t taste the same anymore. Every Christmas my family eats buñuelos in memory of my grandmother. They are a very special food because buñuelos always brought my family together. Every time I eat a buñuelo on Christmas I remember my grandmother.
Ilove the anticipation of the Sunday night tradition with my family. Dad makes buffalo wings and slices potatoes for homemade chips. While he’s cooking, my siblings and I set up the living room by creating a giant bed with tons of pillows and blankets. Once the floor looks like a comfortable bed at a department store, we pop a movie into the DVD player. As we watch the previews, I smell the hot sauce and hear the potatoes frying. When the hot oil stops bubbling, I know Dad is straining the potatoes. Afterward, I hear the sounds of Dad stirring and mixing the wings in the bowl. When the noises stop, I know Dad is bringing the food into the living room, and my mouth waters.
Once Dad sets the plate down, I smell the sauces hitting my nose. While staring down at the juicy chicken wings and seeing the crunchy potato chips, I can’t wait to start eating. I grab the wing instead of the little drumsticks and my teeth sink in. Flavors hit my tongue and I am delighted by Dad’s amazing cooking.
My family watches the movie and our bellies fill up with Dad’s yummy food. Then, we fall asleep on the pillows or the comfy couch. My family’s Sunday night tradition will always be dear to my heart. When I grow up, I want to create these wonderful memories for my children.
When my tío came to visit in Arizona, he made a dish of aguachile with my dad. They set up a table and chairs, played Mexican music, drank a cold beer, and made the dish in the garage. Once they finished making the plate, I eagerly ran to the garage. I was so happy to see the uncooked shrimp with tinted red water and specks of red tajin. I walked over to the table and grabbed a shrimp, sucked the delicious juice out, and put the shrimp back. It was like heaven. I thought that the spicy juice was the best I’d ever tasted. My dad and tío laughed at me. At the time, I thought that you weren’t supposed to eat the shrimp. I saw my dad and tío eat the shrimp, but I thought they were just trying to gross me out.
After I went into the house, my dad’s friends came over. He offered his friends aguachile, which they had never tried. They grabbed a toothpick, stabbed the shrimp, and ate. My dad was waiting for their response. He expects everyone to like his dish. Meanwhile, my tío was trying to hold in his laughter. My dad was very confused. He asked my tío why he was laughing. His friends had eaten the shrimp that I sucked the juice out of.
Nothing is better than fresh, sweet-tasting strawberries. Once, when my sister and I were watching a movie, a cartoon strawberry character named Barry appeared on the TV. Barry wasn’t just any strawberry. He was so cute! Barry had big, bright green eyes, an infectious smile, and a personality as sweet as frosting on cake.
My sister, who was 1 year old, saw Barry and suddenly sprinted to the fridge, as fast as her little legs could move, tapped rapidly on it, and asked in her adorable laughing voice, “Strawberries?”
I grabbed two cartons of ruby red strawberries, rinsed them, cut off the stems, and added a pinch of sugar to make them as sweet as they could be. Finally, we were ready to get our grub on. While my sister ate the strawberry, juice spread across her chubby cheeks, and her smile looked cute like Barry. When I sunk my teeth into the strawberry, it tasted like candy. It felt like time slowed down as I tasted the juicy droplets sliding down my throat.
Eating strawberries and watching Barry became our tradition. Every time my sister says, “strawberries,” I know what she is craving. Our special tradition makes my day bright. When we see the little strawberry named Barry it’s like nothing could make our day better. ✜