What's Cooking After School?

By Matt McMillen
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, February 11, 2004

"Our relationship to food?" Eduardo Guevara, 16, repeats the question that has just been asked, pauses, looks around at his classmates. "Well, Walter looks like a mushroom."

Everybody in the circle of folding chairs laughs, even Walter Castillo, who, for the record, looks nothing like a mushroom. Kris Woolery, the instructor, waits a moment, glad for the tension breaker. This is the first day of Brainfood, a nine-week program that uses food to teach life skills to high schoolers. Woolery lets the question go and moves on.

"What's the strangest food you've ever had?"

Marian Seisay, 14: "The first time I had pizza." She is from Sierra Leone.

Christina Watson, 14, in a sky blue windbreaker and matching visor: "Spaghetti." She is from Jamaica. "Now, it's my favorite."

The answers keep coming, counterclockwise, around the circle of 24 students. Cabbage, chicken, ground turkey, hot dogs, a chicken teriyaki sub.

Jonathon Guevera: "What we made last year. That thing."

Walter: "What thing?"

Jonathon: "I don't know, man. That thing."

Jonathon, 15, is Eduardo Guevera's cousin. Both of them went through the Brainfood program last year. So did Walter, who is 17. All three are back, hoping to share some of what they learned with the new students. But this exercise is old news to them, and they want to show a little swagger.

"The strangest food you've ever eaten, Eduardo?" teacher Woolery asks.

"If it doesn't look good, I don't eat it."

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