Latin's Spicy New Sophomore Elective

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Stephanie Racker Starting next school year, history department teacher Ms. Stephens will be offering a new elective titled Spice.” The class takes a unique look at the Middle Ages, focusing on the critical role spices (specifically cinnamon, salt, and pepper) played in the Middle Ages. According to the course description, by examining recipes, remedies, rituals, economics, and politics, students will examine how people adopted spices into their daily lives, how societies developed culinary philosophies,and how, consequently, spices then shaped culture during the Middle Ages. This journey of spices from field to table, will include the consideration of how major events of the era including the Silk Road, the Crusades, and the Black Death led to cultural convergences and conflicts. Ms. Stephens compares the significance of spices in the Middle Ages to that of oil trade in the modern world, stressing that looking at salt, pepper, sugar and maybe cinnamon will reveal much about power, class, gender, race, all of which are themes taught in traditional history course. As an obvious history lover (she has been teaching for 23 years) as well as a food enthusiast, Ms. Stephens immediately knew this class was the right fit for her. The class will be similar to many other history courses since it will work to further students writing, reading, and critical thinking skills,” with activities like Harkness style discussions, simulations, debates, [and] blogs.Of special interest to history buffs is the focus on one of the first examples of globalization: the international trade routes established to facilitate the flow of spices. That being said, the Spice class offers a unique experience that students might not otherwise find in a typical history class environment. Since the course centers around food commodities, Ms. Stephens hopes to help build awareness among students about [their] relationship with food today,by having students reflect on their relationship with food in conjunction with American culinary attitudes and practices. Whether its weekly blog posts about recipe reviews, menu analyses, restaurant reviews, or the opportunity for the class to make meals as a group and interview local spice merchants, Ms. Stephens wants students to bond and gain a stronger understanding about how the world functions around them through food. Ms. Stephens summed up her idea behind the purpose of the class saying, I believe heartily that food unites people and builds community. In this very fractious time, I hope this class can do just that– even on a small scale.]]>