Food, Glorious Food

Catchy, huh? It’s the title (among other things) of the Winterim course I’m teaching this week and next.

What’s Winterim? Well, at Trinity School, it’s the two-week period after Christmas break (and also, incidentally, after semester exams) and before the second semester begins. Rather than beginning with new material in these hazy, post-holiday days, we offer Different kinds of classes, classes that meet for two and half hours a day, classes that allow students to explore something New, something Other, something mind-expanding in a way that is Not the Usual Way.

My first year at Trinity I taught a Winterim course called “the art of film.” It was fun and pretty much what it sounds like. Last year, with the assistance of my dear friend Brenda, I taught a drama course. And this year I’m teaching a class on– you guessed it– food.

We began the session with a look at that harrowing film Supersize Me, and went on from there to discuss epidemic obesity in America, recognizable vs. unrecognizable contents in many food products we eat, and how economically efficient methods of corn production in the US have given rise to the superabundance of corn products in our foods. High Fructose Corn Syrup, anyone? See Michael Pollan’s excellent The Omnivore’s Dilemma, if you haven’t already.

Today we had a (colleague and) guest speaker who shared with us his rationale for his vegan diet and then taught us to make a few things (like a Stellar Kale Salad. I am not kidding. It Was Delicious). Tomorrow the students will cook up a couple of recipes from the (much older and therefore Way Ahead of its Time) More With Less Cookbook that I bought way back in 1989.

There’s more to come. We’ll be making seasonal vegetarian dishes on Friday, and next week will spend some time on the topics of fasting and feasting, looking to the Bible for both of these and to the film Babette’s Feast for the latter.

But I’m writing this post for two reasons, really, and the first is this. Yesterday my seventeen (17— that’s a lot for Any Kitchen) students made homemade macaroni and cheese together (which we compared to the Kraft box variety, which we (well, one of us) also prepared. I think it’s pretty impressive that seventeen high school students worked together to prepare one 2 qt. casserole dish of homemade mac and cheese. *pats self and students on back*

And the second is– did you see it coming?– I have a Really Wonderful Poem that I want to share with you, and it’s about food. Sort of. My students and I read and discussed it together at our first class meeting. It was written by a friend of my sister and her husband, and I discovered it thumbtacked to a wall in their study when we were at their house this summer. Among other things, it exposes in a beautiful and compelling way what we manage to do without thinking and to our (and our environment’s) disservice in this country: conflate food and fossil fuels.

But there are Lots of ways of looking at this poem, so don’t limit your interpretation. There’s the language, first of all, and the way the words feel on your tongue. If nothing else, enjoy it for that. And that, come to think of it, is also a way to enjoy food….

Errands

We will call a mango “the delicious heart.”
We will call the fuel pump, “not combustion,
but courier.” In this way, our errands
are enriched with possibility. Even now,
stacked in the produce aisle, we can find
“orbs of rawblush” at three dollars a basket.
And when the garage calls, the mechanic
will say, “you need a new messenger of fire.”
As we thumb through our wallets and make
calculations in our heads, we consider the genus
and species of our words, the inner workings
of their connection. With each mundane
transaction, we stare, unknowingly, across
a divide. And then, we stare back.
It’s then we whisper, “nutrition or torque?”
But listen to this: “sugar and gasoline.”<

–Andrew Varnon

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5 thoughts on “Food, Glorious Food

  1. I want to take your course too! And I’m glad you like that poem so much; I do too. I’m sending a link to your blog to Andrew and his wife Lynette.

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  2. Wow! That’s cool that you found my poem. I hadn’t thought of it as a poem about food so much as a poem about language and metaphor. The poem turns over two different metaphors for the heart – the mango and the fuel pump.

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  3. I think that sometimes you have to experience poems by either reading or hearing the read out loud. Then you just let the words wash over you and a level of understanding will come, it might be different each time you read/hear it. I think some times we over analyze things that we should just experience.

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