"Ms. Marjorie, all we really want to do is eat," they said. A tear appeared in the corner of my eye; twelve twelve-year-olds who liked to eat as much as I do were sitting wide-eyed in front of me, wanting me to lead them, simply, to eat.
So our second semester "Eating Club" was born. We spent the rest of our time learning about food and finding restaurants to order from for our after school Thursday club. We tried Lebanese, Thai, Mediterranean and Italian (no pizza or spaghetti allowed) and even went on a field trip to a Mexican restaurant for a five-course meal (of guacamole and chips, quesadillas, tostadas, tacos, carnitas and rice).
One member, Truong, is the most Mini-Me of them all. He is obsessed with what he is going to eat for each meal, loves the taste of food, and knows almost as much about it as I do. Pre-Eating Club, he knew how to pronounce "gnocchi," he had already tasted carnitas in this Mexican-food-deprived- city, and he already ordered Masala curry every chance he got. His parents, at times - when they know they will not be home for dinner - give him money to order whatever he wants. So he knows the best menus all over the city and places calls from his cell phone at school so it will be there when he gets home. Needless to say, I get a big kick out of this kid. We are kindred food spirits (here he is pictured with an empty plate).
When we went to the Mexican restaurant, he kept telling me he brought enough money to order extra food for himself, in addition to our pre-set five courses. Well, he was quite full afterward, but there was one thing we didn't get that he had his heart set on: nachos. At the end of the meal when we were all getting ready to go, I saw Truong up at the counter pointing at the menu, getting his wallet out and paying the cashier.
A few minutes later, he was handed a take-out bag.
He walked past me and said, "Ms. Marjorie, I ordered nachos to go." And then he turned and added, "Supreme."
The other day I had an extra menu on the front desk for an Italian restaurant my staff sometimes orders from at lunch. I saw him pouring over it when the rest of the class was signing yearbooks.
"What are you going to order today?" I asked him at the end of class.
"Pasta Arrabiata and Pizza Gorgonzola," he answered. I was so jealous.
The purpose of after-school clubs is for kids to find a place to belong, where they are pursuing an interest in something that other like-minded people share. It certainly worked for me.