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Students Serve Up Stories Of Beloved Family Recipes In A Global Cookbook

Many students at D.C.'s Capital City Charter School are first-generation Americans. For a creative writing project, a literacy nonprofit picked a topic everyone could relate to: food from home.
Atole de elote is a warm corn drink from Central America. Student Jose Rivas wrote an essay about a weekly tradition of enjoying atole with his late father in El Salvador, and how the drink helped him to feel more at home after he moved to the U.S. Source: Becky Harlan

Washington, D.C.'s Capital City Public Charter School feels like a mini United Nations. Many of the school's 981 students are first-generation Americans with backgrounds spanning the globe, from El Salvador to Nigeria to Vietnam. So when the staff of the literacy non-profit 826DC began a book-publishing project with the junior class, they picked a topic everyone could relate to that also left room for cultural expression: food.

Writing coaches asked students to think of a family recipe with a backstory — and then write an essay around that dish. The 81 recipes and their accompanying stories that resulted make up a cookbook of global cuisine with a heartfelt touch, revealing that storytelling may be the most important step in any recipe.

Some students shared tales of beloved dishes, the mere thought of which can make their mouths water. "As the steam from the macaroni rose, the smell seemed as if it had fallen from heaven," writes Mark St. John Pete about his grandmother's macaroni and cheese, eaten around a full table

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