“Fourth grade is kind of a magical age,” says wesley Prep teacher Lori Cousino, explaining the origins of Our Common Table, her students’ cookbook collaboration with Bonton Farms and Cafe Momentum. “We can read really great novels and watch TED Talks and have deep discussions, and they have these fresh ideas and fresh eyes looking at the world.”
It was after one of Cousino’s TED Talk Tuesdays looking at the impact of relational poverty—simply meaning the lack of a support network of friends and family—that her students posed the question: why don’t we help build relational wealth?
To that end, the class decided to create a cookbook with Bonton Farms, a working farm and market in South Dallas, and Cafe Momentum, which provides paid internships for at-risk youth.
“In the middle of January, five different fourth-grade families opened up their homes, and we tested all of the recipes,” Cousino says. “Each home had interns from Cafe Momentum, workers from Bonton Farms, and fourth-graders and their families. The families could have just dropped off their kids, but everybody stayed and lingered around the kitchen. And they sat down and had a meal together.”
Two of the class parents, Amy and Aaron Opsal of The Brand Hatchery, gave the students a Branding 101 class, helped brainstorm the logo and title, and laid out the cookbook. They got their professional photographer friends, including Bev and Kevin Marple, Jill Broussard, Jeremy Sharp, and Esther Huynh, to shoot it.
There will be a Mommy & Me cooking class at Sur La Table in the spring and a family-style lunch and dinner at Cafe Momentum in April, where the students will auction off serving pieces that they have painted with the restaurant’s interns.
“I want it to be serving pieces, not just individual plates, because the whole thing is about gathering around a table and getting to know people and connecting,” Cousino says. “It’s about just being a neighbor. Let’s look at each other eye to eye and get to know each other. Then, from there, beautiful things happen.”
The cookbook is available at the Dallas Farmers Market, Bonton Farms Market, and Interabang Books for $30.