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I teach geography.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty obsessed with geography.  Last Saturday, my iphone informed me that I could update to iOS6.  I immediately thought, “Update good.  Phone better.  Apple trustworthy.”  So, I did it.  Later that afternoon, I took the kids on the apple picking adventure I blogged about earlier.  I had never been to this apple orchard, and put it into my trusty Maps application.

What the….?

Why are there these big green signs?

Why does it show me a horse farm in Massachusetts?

Once I got back home that day, I read Apple was making maps.  Bad maps.  You know, accuracy is pretty much the most important thing on a map.  I really harp on this point with my students, and this screenshot gave me the perfect opportunity to discuss the importance of maps, accuracy, and why their knowledge of geography will enable them to be less dependent on machines.

What do you notice is wrong about this map?  Look closely for ten seconds:

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Now we live in a rural area, and it’s not like there are tons of roads to label out here.  Was the Apple Genius/Cartographer just lazy?  Did they think I wouldn’t notice?  Which Highway 94 do you take?  What about the people who live on Highway H?  Are people not able to get to their homes?  Second, Notice there are also two towns with the same name on this map: Portage Des Sioux.

Colloquially known as “Portage”, this town has been located along the Mississippi River since the 18th century.  As a matter of fact, an important treaty between the US Government and a plethora of Native American tribes was signed there in 1815 that basically said that these tribes would get the heck out of Missouri permanently.  It’s a nice little town that has risen and fallen with the Mississippi Rver many times throughout its history.  But, to the Geniuses/Cartographers at Apple, it’s not too important, so they put its location in a farmer’s field in addition to the actual location just to cover their bases.

At this point, you may be asking yourself again, “Why is he talking about this?”  Well, I’ll tell you…

GEOGRAPHY MATTERS.  And getting kids to care about geography is my job.  How do you do that?

With delicious pork filled sandwiches.  Recently, we were studying the geography of Latin America.  The kids made Power Point presentations with their laptops about different Latin American countries.  One requirement I had was to include a recipe native to their country.  There were a lot of interesting recipes, including sweet potato popsicles from the Dominican Republic, fried plantains from the Bahamas, and a papaya drink from Panama.  One of my students did a presentation on Cuba.

I’m fascinated by Cuba.  It’s so tantalizingly close to the US, but so far away due to our political differences.*  I’d totally love to go there.  An island full of baseball, beaches, cigars, and beautiful scenery sounds wonderful.  On top of this, they make one fantastic sandwich.

*How are these two men still running a large country?

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If you are wearing jumpsuits in public, your global credibility generally deteriorates.  By the way, what is the deal with Communists and their jumpsuits?  Kim Jong Il had his brown North Korean jumpsuit and Mao Zedong had the blue Mao Suit…Something about equality among the people I guess.   Back to sandwiches!

A Cuban Sandwich is made by layering ham, roasted pork, swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard between Cuban bread, then pressing it on a hot grill, letting all the flavors meld together into a mass of meaty goodness.

So, after all the presentations we decided we would have a Latin American Lunch on Friday.  Some students brought in dishes for bonus points, and I promised we would make Cuban sandwiches as a class.

Now, this did mean some prep on my part.  The biggest thing was roasting some pork.  I found a recipe for Cuban roasted pork on the interwebs, and stayed up until well past Midnight on Thursday making it.  The key is adobo seasoning.  If you want a recipe for adobo, click here.  It’s super good, and I’m looking forward to using it again.

The next morning I was getting my ingredients together to bring to school, and what should I behold in the back of the fridge, but an unopened package of salami.  Apparently, there is some disagreement in the Cuban communities of Florida, about what is the TRUE Cuban sandwich.  In Miami, they prefer just ham and pork.  In Tampa, they like ham, pork, AND salami.

I will not argue with the good people of Miami, but three meats beats two any day.

So, after a riveting game of “LABEL THAT CANADIAN LOCATION” (We’ve moved on in Geography) we went down to the kitchen to assemble the sandwiches.  I had four loaves of french bread that I split between four groups of students.  The kids followed directions and assembled their sandwiches, with the boys (of course) using the most meat.

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I don’t have a grill press at school (Imagine that!)  Instead, I used two electric skillets as my sandwich press.*

*I STRONGLY EMPHASIZED TO MY STUDENTS AND TO YOU DEAR READERS TO NOT DO THIS AT HOME…

but it totally worked…

Anyway, we sliced into our pressed sandwiches and enjoyed their wonderful flavor.  Interestingly many people commented it was the pickles that really brought the sandwich all together, and I would have to agree.  In addition to the sandwiches we also had fried plantains, papaya drink and sweet potato popsicles.  (There was also lemon meringue pie and three layer dip, offering an American flavor to the festivities).  The sandwiches were a HUGE hit.  Overall, I think the kids got a greater appreciation of the many flavors that make up the cuisine of our many neighbors south of the border.

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Any favorite Caribbean or Central American dishes to share?  Let me know!

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