I sat down at the large square table in the Spencer House at Hamilton College (the school I attend) with, on my left, Lindy Mechefske (an English author and fellow food blogger living in Canada), and on my right, Margaret, my co-leader of our Slow Food Hamilton College chapter. Other guests at the dinner held last night included Debra Richardson, the Slow Food Mohawk Valley leader, and a handful of students, professors and other active figures involved in the food movement.
We were all united by our appreciation of the pleasure food evokes and our desire to alleviate many food-related issues found globally. The reason for this special gathering was to serve as a prelude to a talk by Danielle Nierenberg, activist, author, journalist, and Founder and President of FoodTank, who had just arrived on our small campus in central NY. With her, we all enjoyed a vegetarian dinner including a selection of dishes inspired by the Italian-Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi.
At dinner, I spoke a great deal with Lindy about a wide array of food-related topics. As the meal was presented in front of everyone, a ring of arms extended inward from all directions, ready to carefully, ferociously, respectfully, savagely, and slowly attack, with the utmost grace, the dishes before us. It was at this moment that I turned to Lindy, my eyes still fixed on the dishes, and said “The table is a battlefield.” Yet, a battleground composed of a stunning array of rich colors and complementary tastes. Everything was so irresistible that everyone charged to position their stakeout. As the dinner progressed, I realized the battlefront drifted to my end of the table, each dish surrounding me. I surrender. The proof is below (the last photo).
Danielle Nierenberg came to campus to give a lecture titled “Cultivating a Better Food System” enlightening students with a recipe that will surely contribute to improving our global food system by highlighting the stories of individuals and grassroots organizations. Their values are the following: Educate. Inspire. Advocate. Change. Her talk was captivating and inspiring. Some of the issues she addressed were covered in her TED Talk.
This morning I attended a class by a professor I met last night. This class was, suitably, about food writing. Lindy Mechefske presented to the class her new book Sir John’s Table, which I will be sure to add to my reading list. Lindy had the students participate in a writing exercise: in five minutes, write your instructions to creating a wonderful peanut and jelly sandwich. Here is what I wrote:
Take two slices of a good loaf of bread, slap them on your counter or on a plate. Toast them — you can put them in a toaster or fry them on a skillet with a little bit of butter — and when crispy, add to one slice some raspberry jam gathered onto a spreading knife, and sloppily smooth it on the bread, creating an uneven topography. Do the same, also unevenly, with some chunky peanut butter on the other piece of bread. The two sides should mirror one another, as though, however, the mirror is shattered: the two spreads will combine, meld into each other’s inconsistencies and forge a sticky combination that… I personally have no taste for.
During the class, some underlying messages emerged. Firstly, our generation must find a way to sustainably produce food; humanity will need 70% more food to satisfy the population of 2050 (UN Food and Agriculture Organization). Secondly, we must keep in mind that, today, our food system is more involved in filling the stomach physically with nutrient-poor foods rather than satisfying it nutritionally, sensually and spiritually. Lastly, I learned the importance of following the natural evolution of what life throws our way. Do not force your future, rather embrace and encourage it. Feed your passions because a joyous, successful career will surely follow suit.
I arrived at Hamilton, yes, with a passion for food, however hoping to follow a pre-med track. I realized that it is contradictory to follow such a narrowing track in a liberal arts school, where holistic, extensive learning inside and outside of the classroom is encouraged and around which the curriculum is designed. Medical school is not out of the cards, but I’d rather participate in a post-baccalaureate program following college, maybe with a few years in between to gain experience.
I guess I wrote this blog post to introduce a new style of writing on my blog. As my voice and the voice of my generation is starting to play a major role in the path of our global food system, I think it would be most appropriate to add more than just recipes and travels to this blog. There are so many pressing issues that need to be addressed and publicized, and I will give my insight and take a stance on these problems, provide updates on what I am doing to get my campus involved in Slow Food, and continue to share my deep love of food.