Making Food and Memories at an East Bay Maker Educator Meetup

Our staff member Linda recently reminded us that “almost a year ago we did an intergenerational MEM around food and memories and never posted about it because life got so chaotic :sob: Do we still have photos? Is it too late to write about it?” Well, Linda, it’s never too late to celebrate joy and a job well done! We wanted to share some reflections on this past event, one of the last we were able to hold in the Community Studio in 2020, as we simultaneously acknowledge the reality of a full year of shelter-in-place measures, work-from-home-life, and the COVID-19 pandemic in California. We’re looking forward to the day when we can safely host all of you in person at the Studio again. Until then, enjoy this dispatch from a calmer time:

What’s up with meetups?

We love hosting Maker Educator Meetups (MEMs) at our Community Studio home base. MEMs are free, informal, gatherings of educators who are focused on hands-on, learner-driven, maker-centered education. Hosting and attending these events are great ways to expand your professional network, share new ideas, projects, and resources, and have an evening of fun with like-minded educators! Last February (a whole year ago, wow), we hosted a Maker Educator Meetup focused on cooking and food. (Learn how to host your own local meetups from our Maker Educator Meetup Playbook.)

In my family, we don’t say ‘I love you’, we say ‘Have you eaten yet?’”

-Linda Le

Our evening explored the intersection of how making food can be intimately tied to our ideas of community, identity, and belonging through communal cooking, eating, and conversation.

We welcomed participants of all ages to this family-friendly event and asked them to reflect on a time when food left a strong impression in their lives (adapted from this Food Memories lesson from the Edible Schoolyard Project). Sharing a food memory like this can be a powerful and vulnerable experience: the aromas, tastes, associated people, and events can evoke times of joy, struggle, or nostalgia. 

Linda, a Vietnamese-American staff member, shares a family recipe in the colorful Maker Ed Community Studio.

After sharing these experiences and their meanings for us, we gathered to collectively make Vietnamese Rice Porridge from a recipe inspired by Linda’s mom. She shares, “In my family, we don’t say ‘I love you’, we say ‘Have you eaten yet?’ and more often, ‘Have you eaten rice yet?’” Eating and sharing food continues to build and maintain intergenerational bonds as we meet in the kitchen and the dinner table to pass down knowledge and share stories about where we have been and who we hope to be. 

As participants began to make rice porridge, each person took on specific roles and responsibilities. From shredding chicken, to prepping toppings, to combining ingredients for a dressing, we appreciated how engaged everyone was in creating an entire meal together.

A photograph of meetup participants cooking together. One is stirring a pot and the other watches.

A close-up photograph of a pot of broth being stirred.Making food together is an important way to connect. We watched youth excitedly follow the recipe independently to contribute to the meal preparation, while adults shared their skills, knowledge, and expertise. Guests who were strangers at the beginning of the night shared moments of joy and laughter as they worked together.

A parent and child prepare vegetables for cooking at the Maker Ed Community Studio.

A photograph of a child, wearing a windbreaker, demonstrating the proper knife technique to cut hard-boiled eggs in half.

A photograph of two youth cooking together.After preparing our meal, we took the time to clean, set up the tables, and eat together. Everyone eats and these spaces are the few places where people young and old can meet to nourish themselves, as well as each other. In the process of creating this collaborative and communal space, we also built a welcoming space for folks to share their experiences and background.  

We could not predict that a month later, we would enter shelter in place. As the doors of our office closed, and our work became and still remains mostly remote, we are reminded of the importance of community and the investment in relationships — even if we all can’t meet together at the same dinner table. 

A group photograph at the Maker Ed Community Studio: meetup participants sit around a table smiling and eating together.A photograph of a group of people enjoying a meal together at the Maker Ed Community Studio.

Resources in this Blog Post

Interested in learning more about incorporating maker centered learning in your classroom, library, museum, after school program, or makerspace? Explore more project ideas and learning concepts through our video series, Learning in the Making!

Also check out these online resources:

  • Download the recipe for Vietnamese Rice Porridge Soup, inspired by Linda’s mom! Vegetarian and chicken versions are both included.
  • The Maker Educator Meetup Playbook: This playbook describes the evolution of the Bay Area Maker Educator Meetups since they started in 2014, and shares the goals, outcomes, inspirations, and nuanced details of organizing, convening, and supporting our local MEMs. We hope that this resource will assist you with organizing your own informal gatherings for local educators interested in making and makerspaces in both informal and formal settings that serve youth. 
  • The Edible Schoolyard Project: dedicated to transforming the health of children by designing hands-on educational experiences in the garden, kitchen, and cafeteria that connect children to food, nature, and to each other. They feature a resource library with free lesson plans and materials created by their program and partners. 







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