The opportunities of what to explore when the focus is corn, and the challenge is to weave its story and lore into a cooking workshop, are just so plentiful!  My starting point was guided by my belief that it is important to understand a plant through appreciating its role in the food, medicine, clothing and knowledge traditions of the Original Peoples whose territory we are on. And even this is something that could be broken down into so many different workshops, so all we did was open a husk or two 🙂

We started with learning the names of the Nations who traditional territory that we are on. In Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge and Brantford we are on the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnawbe (Ah-nish-nah-bay) and Haudenosaunee (Ho-deh-no-show-nee) peoples.

We explored creation stories and the Legend of the Three Sisters. Corn, beans, and squash are recognized as the Three Sisters throughout Turtle Island and Mesoamerica. This alone deserves a moment to sink in, recognizing that corn (also known as maize) was grown (and eaten) traditionally with these companion plants for thousands of years.

Read about the Iroquois Legend of The Three Sisters on the Iroquois White Corn Project website, a local project working to keep alive some of  the traditional corn varieties whose cultivation dates back at least 1,400 years in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) communities.

We also explored the great variety of uses of corn and corn products in the world around us.

corn products


What else could we have explored? The use of corn and corn products beyond just food consumption among the traditional peoples who have cultivated it in years past and currently is one, but we could also explore the struggles around Genetically Modified Corn and the ongoing battle in Mexico and many other nations to prevent it’s arrival. We could have looked into the role of corn as a bio-fuel and the environmental impacts that makes…and the list goes on.

What we did do though with the remainder of our workshop time was to make some super yummy vegan corn chowder, and corn-quinoa muffins.  Oh and the girls started planning out and acting a play in their spare time that they are all going to present this coming week, when we eat together again 🙂


How About Them Apples!

This week the homeschoolers cooking workshop groups was all about apples.  This was not only an opportunity to explore a diversity of apple recipes including a butternut squash and apple soup, apple crisp, and apple sauce, but it was also an opportunity to explore the leading role that the apple plays in stories and lore throughout the ages and throughout the world.

How many stories can you name that lean on the symbolism of the apple?  Snow White and the Genesis story of Adam and Eve are often the first ones that come to mind but scratch below the surface and there are so many more! Greek mythology and Norse mythology are good place to start in order to expand the landscape and observe the apple’s appearance in story and literature. Noticing how often the apple appears and the similarity of the role it plays in theses stories was a fantastic place to start exploring what symbolism is, how it is used in story.

apple docWe also explored all the sayings, idioms, and lore that is rooted in the apple.  Exploring some of these phrases is an opportunity to look into current events and larger issues of justice, and sometimes it is just fun. “Just a few bad apples”, opens up the space to talk about current struggles that communities have with policing, for example.  Where “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” many call up fewer big emotions, but nevertheless is an insight into the role of popular wisdom.  How many phrases can you think of that contain apples? There were no less than 12 that we discussed, and I’m sure we missed some!

IMG_3407If your young person in the KW region is interested in participating in these workshops, please drop us a line!  If there is interest but your families availability doesn’t line up with the times I have already scheduled, please also drop us a line and lets investigate if there are options to make it work!


Learning about the history of civilization one recipe at a time

As a self-directed and unschooling educator, it is so exciting to me when I witness others sinking into their curiosities and passions as legitimate ways of getting to know and explore the world around them. Well, now is the moment to acknowledge my own joy in following a self-directed learning path myself, and in doing so also sharing my awareness of the importance of modelling self-directed education in transparent ways. If you want the little and growing people around you to develop the skills, abilities, and confidence to be a self-directed learner in the world, model it!  Your desire for the growing people you love to have it all is a call to arms, you also get to do this! In fact, you must.  For me, the roots of my curiosity always bring me back to food, collaborative food making, and community building because of food. So when I saw this book that promised to give me an opportunity to explore world history through recipes…I was excited.

Recipe history is a way to get curious about so much more. Following human civilization from 1958 BCE to 2011, “A History of Food In 100 Recipes”, is an exploration of how human patterns, tastes, techniques, and products have evolved. I’m learning about the earliest known recipes found on tablets in Mesopotamia in 1700 BCE through many years and developments that landed Amelia Simmons in the United States in 1796,  perfecting and publishing her recipe for apple pie… and the adventure continues to explore the first t.v dinners and their significance and beyond!

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.
This book is significant not only because of the epically long title but  because it is the first cookbook published in the 13 states upon its publication in 1796. Of course, it featured the modern version of apple pie

I am not planning on becoming a food historian. But through exploring the corners and folds of my curiosity, I keep getting to know the world around me with greater depth and context. Where it will all lead is not known and planned out, but I am sure excited about my learning right now!

I get to learn so much by following my curiosity about food, making food, eating food. What are you curious about?