I ate lunch with some high school students recently. They cooked. They used recipes pulled from their own "cookbooks." These cookbooks -- actually unbound pamphlets -- were published as part of a class project in the computer applications and desktop publishing class taught at Baltimore City College.
We ate lasagna, stuffed mushrooms, Mexican beef with peppers, seafood tacos, peaches and ice cream, and deep-fried bananas.
The students told me how they had dug up the recipes from books and from relatives. They told me how they were surprised sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not, by the food that came from the stove. It was good food and good conversation.
This is the fifth year that City College teachers Allen Rosskopf and James Morrow Jr. had their students collect and publish a collection of recipes. The booklets, which the class calls cookbooks, are not for sale.
The high schoolers, according to Morrow, considered several topics of publishing interest before settling on food. "We wanted to work with something that everybody would be interested in," Morrow told me. "Not everybody is interested in . . . say cars," he explained "But everybody eats."
Dividing into teams of four, the students picked themes for their cookbooks. They gathered recipes from kinfolk and from published works. Using classroom computers, they typed in the recipes. Finally they used the computers to publish the 30-page booklets, complete with a table of contents, artwork numbered pages.
In the process, the students said, they learned about the vagaries of computer publishing. Some cookbook pages, for example, emerged upside down. But overall the computer students come out with products they are proud of. Last year, about 200 students who took various sections of the class published about 50 cookbooks, Morrow said.
In previous years, the class ended with students carrying home copies of their prized projects and teachers keeping file copies.
But this year the class ended with a meal that some juniors cooked from their published works. Morrow and Rosskopf gathered the ingredients requested by the fledgling chefs. The students did the cooking. They worked at the high school in a room that in a previous era was used by a home economics class. According to Jeff Malter, executive director of the school's board of visitors, home economics is no longer taught at City College.
Shortly after I arrived at City College, which sits near Memorial Stadium, I smelled the class project. The aromas filled the school's wide, sparkling hallways. I followed my nose to a classroom. I was not alone. In addition to the dozen or so students who were participants in the computer class, several students from other classes wandered into the sweet-smelling classroom. Some of the wanderers were seniors who needed a signature from Morrow or Rosskopf to clear their way to graduation. Others were hungry kids who smelled lunch. Most of the freeloaders were shooed away by the cooks.
I was an invited freeloader, so I got to eat. I was somewhat wary of eating dishes cooked by teen-agers. I have a teen-ager at home and have seen what this age group can do in a kitchen. But after several flavorful bites of lunch, my fears subsidied and I happily shoveled in food and talked with the cooks.
Charles James said he telephoned relatives in Mexico to get the recipe for his beef and peppers dish. While he was pleased with the dish, he said the version he tasted in Mexico was different. The peppers are better down there, he said. His classmate, Tia Wingfield, said she liked the dish and was going to cook it this summer.
Erica Kelly, Kenya Bates and Taneah Daniels were impressed with the flavor of the seafood tacos, a dish Ms. Kelly said she planned to cook again. When Maurice Gardner served his peaches and ice cream, everyone chowed down.
Finally China Osborn fried bananas in peanut oil, filling the room with a wonderful fragrance. The dish was an exquisite dessert, if you liked bananas. Tyon Harris, one of the students, did not care for the fruit. Out of courtesy, he tried a taste of his classmate's creation. He took a small bite and shook his head -- proving, I guess, that while you can take bananas to computer class, you can't program personal taste.