I'm a teacher, writer and researcher. My dream is to see more kids doing real cooking, inside and outside the classroom, and using food to connect with their own communities as well as other communities around the world.
I grew up in a working-class family that survived on canned and frozen food. It was only when I took my first cooking job in a run-down catering kitchen that I learned to love the heft of a chef's knife, the smell of a ripe cucumber cut open, and the unique feeling of exhilarated exhaustion that comes with preparing two hundred deviled eggs from scratch. I know how it feels to feel lost in the supermarket (to paraphrase The Clash).
I was fortunate to receive an informal but comprehensive education in food when I became a journalist focused on the Boston food scene, penning travel guides and features for Insight Guides, Tasting Table and the Boston Globe, among others. I was equally fortunate to continue my education when I moved abroad to write, cook, and teach in Seoul, where I was able to teach and learn alongside Korean chefs and home cooks.
It was in South Korea, where McDonalds locations were popping up like mushrooms in the wake of modernization, that I came to see the food world through the lens of a three-thousand-year-old culture. While some South Koreans welcomed the arrival of American fast food, many others were terrified that their food traditions–synonymous with their culture–would be lost forever if they did not develop a way to transmit these traditions to their children.
I took these lessons to heart. When I returned to the States, taking a job as a community manager for Yelp in the Rust Belt, I made it my personal mission to highlight the work of Stateside restaurateurs who were endeavoring to celebrate the local and regional traditions that define American culture.
However, having taught young children in Seoul, I found myself wondering the same question my neighbors in Seoul were pondering: how do we pass down to our children the best ideas we're developing in food, around the world? How do we teach them about how to cook and grow food, in ways that help us feel connected to our communities and to the planet?
So, I headed to New York City for grad school, and spent four years working in the New York City school system, learning how to translate my life's work into language a six year old could understand. At night, I worked toward a Master's degree in childhood education and literacy at the Bank Street Graduate School of Education, a small but venerable institution with a strong social justice orientation, so that I could include students with special needs (learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, limited English proficiency) in this work.
Now, I teach about food and culture in many spaces, in partnership with Butter Beans Kitchen (which focuses on elementary school students) and The Brooklyn Kitchen (a culinary school for adults whose mission is to "save the world by teaching people to cook"). My husband and I live just across the Brooklyn border in Woodside, Queens, where it's possible to have both a tiny backyard garden and easy access to Korean BBQ.
As a Bank Street-trained educator living in the world's most diverse metropolitan area, my lens on education is strongly anti-bias and anti-racist. I strive to be inclusive of all learning styles, cultures and family structures when I think about how to select recipes, books and images to represent what "cooking" or "gardening" looks like. I seek to raise awareness of the fact that the relationship between the American people and our land can be fraught as well as joyful, particularly for groups of people whose ancestors were dispossessed or enslaved, and that facing these issues head-on is the only way to make the alternative food movement relevant beyond its White origins. I think it's essential to respect the fact that "healthy" doesn't look the same in every household. A vision of future food education that privileges kale over collard greens, veal Bolognese over curry goat, is a vision that just won't make the cut for me, or my students.
I'm passionate about helping the next generation of eaters to develop a sense of cultural identity that is deeply grounded in both their local communities and in a more inclusive idea of what it means to be American. I am just as passionate about making sure that every person feels confident enough in the kitchen to feed themselves and their families, and engaging my fellow grown-ups in this work. This may mean that some teachers and parents today have to learn how to pick up a knife or wield a shovel for the first time, too. That's why I've started this site: as a collection of resources for caregivers and educators interested in empowering the next generation of eaters to be curious, open, adventurous and empathetic when it comes to feeding themselves and caring for our planet. Who knows: you might even learn to devil an egg.