“Okay classmates, it’s sushi time!” All the faces in the room turn towards me. Time stops for a moment.
My mind quickly recalls an earlier conversation with our weekly volunteer Susan. She asks “Are you going to tell them nori means seaweed? Don’t you think they won’t want to eat it after you tell them that?”
I have a brief moment of inner confusion. Oh my goodness should I tell them? Will they get grossed out? Do they know what seaweed is?!
I mentally come back to the classroom in front of me. Not giving in to my tinges of nervousness I ask, “Who has eaten sushi before?”
“What’s that green stuff?” a student notices as my co-teacher, Ms. Amelia, is beautifully arranging the sushi components on the prep table.
Oh man I didn’t expect them to ask to soon! Should I just explain it right now? Or should I wait until later in the lesson when I have them a little more interested?
Let me note lessons aren’t always this nerve-racking. It usually is a very simple format of nutrition discussion, activity, cook, eat, chat, and review. But today I had a particular pressure because I’ve known this class to have a few picky eaters not to mention this lesson and one more day of class was the only thing separating them from winter break. Hence the racking of nerves.
“Well that is something we will learn about later in the lesson.”
“I’ve heard there’s seaweed in sushi!” one student excitedly pointed out.
I freeze. I expect to hear groans and moans but there’s none. Just inquisitive looks. This is good! Change of (lesson) plans.
“Has anyone ever the word ‘nori’?” I ask slightly diverting from the comment but not totally. 18 heads of seven and eight-year-olds shake no.
“Can we call say it together? NORI!”
“Nori is the Japanese word for seaweed. Nori is part of our delicious snack today and will be what we use to keep out sushi together. Since, our recipe for sushi comes to us from Japan, let’s try learning some more Japanese words,” I say as I hand out a page with Japanese phrases. Soon the room is flooded Japanese words for please, thank you, and good morning.
“‘Domo arigato’ class,” I interrupt, “Ms. Amelia, will you kindly demo how to make our snack today?”
Ms. Amelia aptly demonstrated how to press the sushi rice on the nori, lay the vegetables horizontally, and roll ever so carefully. With each step she showed, student’s expressions let on to more and more excitement. Especially when she explains the vegetarian sushi fillings included carrot (they say oooh), cucumber (yum!), picked daikon (ahhh), and bell pepper (yes!!). I feel more and more excited!
“Who’s ready to roll sushi?!” I nearly jump up out of my seat.
“Meeee!!!” was the overwhelming response.
“Okay, let’s start.”
One of my favorite parts (among many) about working with youth is that introducing new and unique foods is not as difficult as many might think. Many young students have not been socialized to think certain foods are unpleasant like their older counterparts may have. Foods like eggplant and papaya, which a surprisingly large group of adults don’t give a fair chance, young folks will welcome with open taste buds. I hoped for the same for sushi/nori and I was not disappointed!
We rolled our sushi with gusto, cut them into bite size pieces (by the help of a teacher), and enjoyed with the flawless accompaniments of pickled ginger and low-sodium soy sauce. It was a delight for all.
“Domo arigato for the sushi Ms. Amelia and Ms. Cristina!”