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Lowell High students share their families’ recipes and coming-to-America stories in new cookbook

The cookbook from the 2020-’21 class has more than 60 recipes from 17 countries, edited by their history teacher

The cookbook from the 2020-’21 class has more than 60 recipes from 17 countries, edited by their history teacher, Jessica Lander.
The cookbook from the 2020-’21 class has more than 60 recipes from 17 countries, edited by their history teacher, Jessica Lander.Handout

For Lowell High School student Sameer Abdu, the egg dish shakshuka sparks memories of his homeland, the East African country Eritrea. It’s a dish his grandmother cooked using eggs from the family’s chickens. For student Aleen Aghabi, lamb mansaf, a traditional food in Jordan, captures memories of the country she come from. Thit Kho Tieu, a braised pork dish, reminds Huy Duong of his friends and family in Vietnam. These students and others from the US History II class at Lowell High School have contributed family recipes and personal stories that fill the cookbook “Tasting History.” The yearlong course covers US history from the late 1800s to the present, with a unit on 19th-century migration. Their teacher, Jessica Lander, an ELL social studies and civics teacher, developed the curriculum and devised the idea of the cookbook as a final project. For Lander, talking about migration to a room full of immigrants through the lens of food seemed natural — and one approach to connect what they’re learning to their own journey. “I try to teach my students that their history is part of America’s story,” she says. Her students come from dozens of countries, and some have fled war or lived in refuge camps. “When you leave your home, you can bring little with you but your own . . . traditions,” says Lander, 33, a graduate of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She compiled, edited, and self-published the cookbook. This is the third edition; the first was published in 2018. “I want my students to know their traditions are important,” says Lander. The cookbook from the 2020-’21 class has more than 60 recipes from 17 countries, from Nigerian jollof rice, ugali porridge from Tanzania, Vietnamese spring rolls, tamales from Guatemala, Dominican dumplings, to various versions of the Brazilian chocolate dessert brigadeiro. The book is $35 and available through Lowell High School’s online student store.

ANN TRIEGER KURLAND

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Ann Trieger Kurland can be reached at anntrieger@gmail.com.