The MVS 8th grade class celebrated the end of the year with a To Kill a Mockingbird-themed supper, with each dish appearing in Harper Lee’s Southern classic. The menu included chicken, collard greens, mustard greens, slow-cooked pinto beans, pickled radishes, blackberries, and honeyberry-infused pink lemonade. The majority of the vegetables served at the meal were planted and harvested by MVS students in the Z-Lab gardens.
“Food is such a big part of To Kill a Mockingbird and, really, a lot of Southern literature,” said Tyler Benedict, who teaches the 8th grade English class. “When Harper Lee describes food in her book, she’s really using it as a stand-in for class, race, and all the other markers that govern life in a small Alabama town during the Great Depression.” As part of the experiential learning process, 8th grade students harvested radishes, mustard greens, and collard greens in the week leading up to the feast. Student volunteers also helped to prepare biscuits in the Z-Lab ovens and infused frozen lemonade with berries from the garden.
“During the 1930s, especially in a town like Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird, you lived on what you could grow or catch, which is why so many of these classic dishes can be made with foraged ingredients, all parts of the animal, and so on,” said Benedict. “We wanted to make sure that the kids had a similar hands-on experience with their food, so we made sure to get out, harvest the greens, radishes, and everything else, and wash and chop everything we could on campus.”
Patti DeLotell, the Director of the Zorniger Environmental Laboratory, was on-hand to help students prepare crops for consumption. “Winona LaDuke has a great quote about the mindfulness associated with food…that food has history, it has a story, it has relationships,” said DeLotell. “That sort of awareness is what we try to cultivate in our garden.”
The MVS Z-Lab Greenhouse and Gardens will next serve the MVS community at The Story of Our Harvest on Friday, October 4.