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What’s the oddest place you’ve found a lesson or lesson resource?

I just ran across an old Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. Trader Joe’s is a specialty grocery chain where I do a lot of my shopping, and they send out a newsprint newsletter/magazine/ad every few months, with four or so products per page, illustrated using only altered Victorian clip art and described in chatty, often pun-filled prose.

On one page, they describe their “Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken” in a way that I thought might be useful in a rhetoric/composition/writing/reading/media etc. class. It’s two paragraphs, and among other things, they write “And while some of our Thai style foods are incredibly authentic, others are simply our twist on the taste and textures that we love most about the cuisine of Thailand. This is where our Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken fits in. We can’t recall ever tasting a pasta dish just like this one in Bangkok, but we think it would blend in well with the local dishes … with a spicy dressing that evokes Thai cooking with its flavors of peanuts and ginger.”

Assuming your students are at a level where they can understand words like “authentic” and “evoke,” if you asked them whether the entire passage claimed that the salad was authentic or not, what would they say? Many of the students I’ve known, even advanced ones, would think it was supposed to be authentic. What are the signals in the passage that it is not authentic? There are specific sentence patterns, contrasts to other items that are authentic, and other subtle and less subtle cues that the pasta salad is not really Thai food at all. Marking up a paragraph like this could be a useful activity for an advanced class.

(Using ads as source material isn’t appropriate in every class, but it’s very appropriate in some classes.)

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