Austin Bat Cave recently had the opportunity to collaborate with the wonderful Urban Roots, a nonprofit that provides paid internships to youth (ages 14-17) who work on the organization’s farm in East Austin. These students learn about sustainable agriculture, healthy lifestyles, job skills, and food justice issues as they provide food to the Austin community; some of their harvest is sold at farmers’ markets, and some is donated to local soup kitchens and food pantries.
ABC was eager to offer a workshop series to Urban Roots students that would help them explore the various relationships between food, writing, and community. We enlisted the help of Meghan McCarron, a stellar writer and foodie-by-trade who had volunteered for us in the past, and crafted curriculum that would guide the students to consider their own experiences with food from a literary perspective.
During the first session, which was held at Urban Roots, the students wrote about the foods they’d last eaten, as well as about foods they liked that others might consider strange (anchovies and Sriracha, anyone?). After a discussion about sensory detail and how food and memory are related, the students wrote nonfiction scenes about foods important to them. They read Matsuo Basho’s “Coolness of the Melons” and Kevin Young’s “Ode to Okra” before writing their own poetry based on their scenes.
The second session, hosted by Lewis Carnegie design studio, focused on how food can tie together other aspects of life, including family, work, and current events. The students read a portion of a profile of famed New Orleans chef Leah Chase, and then the class discussed the article’s content and language. After brainstorming the roles that food might play in their own lives in the decades to come, the students wrote journalistic profiles of their future selves. The pieces they produced are funny and beautiful, as differently flavored as their favorite foods.
Two Austin educational nonprofits, one talented volunteer instructor, and seven wonderful student writers proved to be a winning workshop recipe! The students’ work from these sessions will be included in ABC’s forthcoming annual anthology, to be released in the spring of 2014. We’ll keep you posted!