Many of the students had seen the movie Ratatouille and were excited to taste the dish that melted the heart of the famous food critic, evoking sweet childhood memories of his mother’s ratatouille.

We talked about foods that had warm memories for the students and the dishes were many: Pop Pop’s spaghetti; Grandma’s chicken, rice and beans; Grandma’s potato salad; Mom’s fried chicken; Dad’s vegan mac and cheese. Cooking and sharing meals create strong memories that bind families, I told them, in part because the meals are made with love, and because cooking involves so many senses, taste, smell, touch, even the sound of things sizzling on the stove.

As we read over the recipe, identifying the ingredients along the way, the eggplant was a first for many of them, and they all wanted to run their fingers over the smooth skin. “It’s majestic,” said Shiaheem Freeman. We quickly got right to chopping, because there was plenty to chop: onions, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and garlic and then basil to be julienned, lemon to be cut in wedges and chèvre cheese to be chunked for the garnish.

Once all the vegetables were roasted and this dish was assembled, there were lots of oohs and ahhhs.

“This is actually so beautiful,” said E’Laya Goffney.

In the end, many of them wished there was meat in the dish. “I’m just not satisfied,” said Christopher Durans. Only Mackenzie Forchion, whose Dad is a vegan, appreciated that you could get all the protein you need from a dish of vegetables and cheese and quinoa; She pronounced it “so good.” But they all dutifully had three bites, and some of them were surprised at what they found: “I though at first it was going to taste weird,” wrote Alyssa Pagan. “But it turned out to be really good.”

Shiaheem wrote: “I thought we would mainly taste the tomatoes, but you taste a little bit of everything.”

Their palates are becoming more refined each week. And they are all eager to share their lessons and their leftovers with their families.