Often when I teach first-year writing (FYW), I attempt to relate the issues and problems with writing found in class to those outside the university. Last semester, I was in a seminar with Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch where we discussed, among other things, the definitional issues facing technical communicators. Despite the focus in Breuch’s course on scientific and technical communication, I think the definition of a writer in general is even more elusive to first-year students.
When I try to explain to my students that writers serve in many roles and go by many names, I try to bring in examples to illustrate how writing is not just the romantic ideal of the long author banging away at his typewriter. One form of discourse I’ve used has been recipes. One of my favorite recipes to use is a mint julep recipe. Now, I love mint juleps, and they are one of my favorite alcoholic drinks.
I use the recipe in class to show that someone has to write the recipe, they had to format the text, and decide what to include and what not. I think this examples shows students that not every writer is a novelist. Writing takes place in many different venues and many different forms. My students seem to respond well to this example because it is something that exists outside of the classroom, and it’s genre they run into everyday.
So, I think mint juleps have a lot to do with teaching writing. I find pedagogical tools for my FYW course in many place and not necessarily in the textbook. I think the most vibrant and exciting tools come from places we least expect them and allow teachers to better connect with students.
For those interested, here is an excellent mint julep recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com: http://goo.gl/RKwvX. I would give you my own recipe, but my recipe is a Kays family secret.