When Culture Meets the Classroom

 

Hands on learning is one of the best ways to apply what we learn in the classroom to the world around us. One of my favorite experiences of hands-on learning has been though what also happened to be one of my favorite classes taken at UVic SPAN 305: Mexican Culture Through Food.

Mexican Culture Through Food is exactly what it sounds like, awesome! This class takes you through the history of Mexico from pre-contact to contact and all the way to today through its art, writing, film, and perhaps most importantly, its food. One of our main projects for the course was to pick a dish or food from Mexico, learn all we could about it, and present what we had learned to the class so that everyone could share in the info as well.

As someone who is always looking for more ways to connect with their Mexican and Hispanic heritage, I was so excited about this project and jumped at one of my favorite traditions: Dia de Muertos and one of its most famous foods, Las Calaveras Azucares or Sugar Skulls.

You have probably seen sugar skulls in art or perhaps the beautiful skull makeup that is sacred and traditional to the Dia de Muertos celebration. Well, you may be surprised to hear that Sugar Skulls aren’t actually a food!

Yes, they are made out of sugar but they also include egg whites and meringue, not as tasty and this is because they are traditionally folk art. Food and art put together? Yes, please!

Nowadays you can definitely find edible versions of Sugar Skulls but you would usually see them on altars to represent our loved ones that have passed on or in competitions for decorating them.

For my class presentation I didn’t just want to talk about Sugar Skulls. I wanted the class to have a hands on experience too, so I actually made my own for the very first time!

Typically you would make them with sugar, egg whites, meringue powder, and a clay or plastic mold but as a student these were not all exactly available to me so with some research and experimenting I found a way to make them by hand with just sugar and egg whites and made a video of the process for my class to watch while they passed around the completed skulls. Talk about hands on!

After taking this course I can proudly say that I have learned more about a part of my heritage I am very proud of and have learned a skill that I can take with me into the celebrations for years to come. If you see this course or something like it that relates to you or is maybe even a brand new culture to you, take a chance if you can and take your education out of the classroom by learning something new.

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