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AP Human Geography Students Explore Cuisine, Migration

Rudy Brandl

AP Human Geography students in Mrs. Jean Castellano’s class enjoyed an exciting immersion experience with the LivingCity Project which focused on the theme of how migration transforms cuisine. This year’s project included a field trip to New York City chaperoned by Mrs. Castellano and Mrs. Nicole Nolan.

The students spent the day in the Lower East Side where they explored Chinatown, and ate at Nom Wah, a dim sum parlor serving the area since 1920. Next, the students explored Grand Street and interviewed local restaurant owners from Kossars, Pickle Guys, and Doughnut Plant. Their last stop was Katz's Delicatessen, where they had the opportunity to speak with the owner Jake Dell about the history of Jewish immigration and Jewish delicatessens in New York City.

In two 45-minute workshops, one fieldwork experience, and a shared family food migration meal, the students learned culinary history, migration and immigration history, and place-based narratives. They explored local cuisines in New Jersey and the Lower East Side of NYC, shared family stories, and designed a meal and cookbook based on what they uncover. 

The project builds upon topics of the AP Human Geography curriculum, including mapping, geographic data, migration, cultural diffusion, urbanization, and city form. The students shared their work in “Neighborhood Food Biographies,” a culminating “Food Migration Meal” and a “Migration History Cookbook.”

Students learned about the ethnic cuisines of their city and other cities, explored how and why these cuisines evolved over time, connected culinary history to migration and urban geography narratives, investigated family histories through family recipes, interviewed restaurateurs about how their menus are inspired by cuisines of other places and explored the culinary and migration histories of NYC’s Lower East Side. Working in groups of two or three, the students prepared an existing or new recipe to tell a family or local migration story and shared their stories while sharing a meal together in the Oakwood Room.