Tomorrow is my last day of actual discussion with my composition students, the food-based writing class for freshmen. While we’ll have business to attend to next week, and then final exams, tomorrow is our last day to come together as a class and discuss the readings they’ve been assigned. We’ve had a student bring a recipe to share almost every class meeting this semester, but tomorrow, no students will bring food (unless they want to).
I, however, will be sharing ginger cookies with the class.
I explained to them the other day that bringing food might seem like an odd exercise, but since we are investigating food and its cultural, social, and artistic implications (not to mention economic and ethical), preparing and sharing food with one another is paramount to that discussion. I take particular joy in hearing them talk about the recipes they bring, the ones they have prepared with their parents, the ones their parents used to make for them when they watched Saturday morning cartoons. I enjoy hearing them recount recipes and assure their classmates that the recipe is really easy to make. I had to smile every time one of them pointed out to our one student with a nut-allergy that, sorry, their dish has nuts. I appreciated that our one allergic student always takes it in stride.
As I graded food journals today, one student wrote, “Food reveals what you cherish.” And I think that’s true, though the thing you cherish isn’t necessarily (or likely) food itself; it’s the people around you, the principles you hold to, the places you know, the emotions attached to the world around us.
Preparing food and then sharing it is what we do. We bring foods when babies are born or family members pass away. We share food as gifts, as comfort, as celebration. When one begins dating someone, you go out for food; when it gets serious, you stay in. Someone cooks, perhaps. And you begin to know each other in a whole new way – kitchen behaviors, ingredient choices, etc. Food is a way we commune with one another. We are (at least) thrice daily thrown in close proximity with other people eating, just like us. That is significant. Continue reading »