Sunday, May 24, 2009


It always amuses me, in a dark way, when I hear groans and laments in the news about the difficulty in attracting qualified people to the teaching profession. It is a lament that is repeated every few years, coincidentally following periods of layoffs and cutbacks in the schools. California is currently experiencing an economic meltdown that is going to result in a lot of fine teachers losing their jobs. Teachers who have spent years earning their credentials and attending professional growth classes are being told thanks, but we can't afford you. While a budget that passed in February cut $8.6 billion from education and called for an increase in higher education tuition, it made no cuts to the state prison budget and granted $700 million in tax breaks to corporations. With the recent rejection of temporary budget fixes (including a regressive sales tax) by voters, education is likely to face more cuts. So expect to hear a slew of news stories two years from now lamenting schools inability to attract qualified teachers.

For now, my job is probably safe. I'm one of a select few who have full-time teaching positions in adult education. Adult education is the ugly step-child of public education and recent changes have made it easier for the K-12 system to shift funds from adult education programs to K-12. Within adult education, ESL is at the bottom rung, immigrants who have no vote, no voice. While on the freeway recently, I was behind a pickup that had this bumpersticker pasted on the window of its cab--"Speak English or Get the Fuck Out!" All I could think was I wish these people who complain about immigrants not speaking English would complain that more classes are needed rather than fewer. My feeling is "provide opportunities to learn English or shut the fuck up!"

Sorry. This is supposed to be a blog about eating and drinking--makan dan minum. I'll cut back on the ngobrol--talk. I actually wanted to share one of the pleasures I get from teaching--the class potluck. This is not just an opportunity for me to enjoy a variety of delicious dishes from around the world; it is a great chance for the students to share their foods with their classmates, most of whom have never tasted foods from other cultures (except pizza and Chinese takeout). The students have to say what is in each dish and how it is eaten. At higher levels I may make them include a recipe; at the literacy level (which this class is) I don't ask for much beyond the ingredients. It is great to see people from totally different cultures enjoy and ask about each others dishes, to see, for example, a fundamentalist Baptist from Uzbekistan ask a Buddhist nun from Hue how to use chopsticks. In learning English, the students are not just learning the language, but learning to respect and enjoy the different cultures that make up this country. The pictures don't really do justice to the dishes the students brought.

Blinchiki by Svetlana from Uzbekistan. Inside there's jam and nuts.

Bun Chay and Dau Hu Xao Xa Ot by Anh Duong from Hue. Vegetarian bun and lemongrass tofu--a hit with all the class.

Glutinous Rice Flour Palm Sugar Center Coconut Balls and Khao Soi curry soup by Mai Yia and Khou, Hmong from Thailand
Golubsi--Cabbage Rolls by Mariya from Moldova
Okroshka by Lidiya from Russia--a cold kefir soup with cucumbers, potatoes and other vegetables

Shrimp Fried Rice by Cai Yin and Shrimp and Eggs by Liandai from China
Banitza by Feodora from Moldova--Cheese and egg filled filo
Tamales by Sonia from Mexico--Chicken, Cheese and Chiles, and Pork
Plov by Boris from Uzbekistan
Goi Sen by Fanny from Vietnam--as delicious as it was beautiful.

1 comment:

  1. How absolutely fabulous! We don't have quite that much cultural diversity. We are 43% Hmong, 2% Mien, 1% Mexican. I've really enjoyed reading your blog!


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