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  • Rachel Terlop

Sushi, Sashimi, or Just Plain Nori

"This tastes like cigarettes," one student shouts from across the room as he shove an entire sheet of nori into his mouth. It's amazing that he was able to fit an 8 1/2" by 11'" piece of seaweed into that sweet little face, I think to myself while passing out more sticky rice. How did we end up here?


5:10 am: Alarm jolts me awake and I roll myself into the kitchen and dump well over half of a bag of rice into a pot. Then upon reading the bag, I notice that the rice is not supposed to actually touch the water.


5:25 am: I get the sticky rice out of the water, and drain it throughly. I some how fashion a "double boiler" out of a pot and a plastic bowl. The instructions say to let it steam for a half an hour so waltz off to the shower.


6:02 am: Walking over to the 'double boiler' I prematurely congratulate myself on such an invention. That congratulations is thrown in the bin after realizing the bottom centimeter of rice is the only part thats ready to go.


6:03 am: Throw all the rice in the boiling water with rice vinegar and go dry my hair. I tried to follow directions, I think to myself the whole time I am drying.


6:14 am: I smell something.


6:18 am: Steam burns hurt. I have successfully burnt the rice in the pot. Not just in the pot, but it is burnt to the pot. Impressively enough the burn is about an inch thick. Luckily I dumped so much rice in that there is enough left over. The rice has a golden color and looks like slime mixed with tapioca pudding.


6:29 am: Out the door; leaving a kitchen floor full of rice and burnt bits does not feel good. This will all be worth it to see them be excited about another culture, I justify repeatedly. My husband kindly reminded me that there is nothing children like more than strange green vegetables, tofu, seafood, and bland rice. He has a point - but sushi is beyond mature. They will feel special!


7:01 am: Checking my mailbox at school reveals two things. 1. I have a debrief today based on my formal observation last week. This will take place during my planning period, right before we make sushi. 2. Teachers are no longer allowed to have food in their rooms without permission.


7:03 am: I email administration to ask for sushi permission, immediately after I drop a pound of imitation crab on the floor.


8:40 am: Kids spy sushi materials immediately and immediately being trying to guess what is in the bag. "I hate rice!" ... "I want fish!" ... "Fish is gross!" ... "What is sushi?"


11:30 am: Find student trying to get into the rice with a pencil.


1:30 pm: Administrator comes in to have a conversation and debrief while I am running barefoot around the room and throwing chopsticks, crab meat, and paper plates into buckets. She slips on a lose piece of crab and I begin to worry if I will have food privileges revoked.


2:17 pm: Children come in from STEM and sit down silently. There is not a peep as I demonstrate how to spread rice, roll using parchment paper and a bamboo mat.


2:23 pm: Literally every child is elbow deep in rice, squealing with excitement, and chattering away while making their sushi rolls. It is a wonder to see how excited they are ripping apart pieces of crab and lining them up ever so carefully.


2:25 pm: "This tastes like cigarettes," I hear from across the room. Now its time to confess to burning the rice, I think as I go to open my mouth. "Don't be offensive to someone's culture, it's just different," I hear another child admonish. THAT. That alone made this unit worth every moment.


3:00 pm: We meet for closing meeting after cleaning the room from top to bottom - taking care to get that crab off the floor. Closing meeting consists of trying to pick up plastic building blocks with chopsticks. There was only one tear that fell!


Note to self: next time, bring soy sauce.





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