Faculty in Focus: What We Learned About Michael Kideckel and Acquired Tastes

As a relatively new faculty member, Michael Kideckel, US History and World Religion Teacher in the Upper School, considers this his first truly authentic year at PDS. “I feel like I had the opportunity to get to know my colleagues in my department and my students really well when we were virtual and hybrid, but being together with everyone on campus this year has brought the School to life in a whole new way.”

Kideckel recalls the strong conviction he felt about joining PDS when he first interviewed in early 2020: “One of the things that I loved about the school when I interviewed, which was right before everything shut down, was the energy. Even the shape of the school is striking—the horizontal space offers these long views of the hallways where students can see you coming from far away, you can see your colleagues, people are popping their heads into classrooms… There’s so much happening and it offers such a sense of community.”

Kideckel’s perspective about the special nature of the PDS community is one that has been fostered for many years through relationships and partnerships with students, families, faculty, staff and the greater Princeton area. A 2018 Ph.D. graduate from Columbia University, Kideckel originally planned to pursue academia and writing until he realized that it was teaching in the independent school environment that he loved.

An avid writer with numerous published articles on the subject of modern food, Kideckel wanted to continue his efforts even after becoming a teacher. One of the best aspects of the PDS professional community, he notes, is the School’s encouragement of personal and professional growth, believing that each individual and their unique set of skills and abilities is what makes the community strongest. Encouraged by his faculty peers, Kideckel dedicated himself not only to teaching but to collaborating with a small group of historians to write, edit and publish a book all about food history: Acquired Tastes: Stories About the Origins of Modern Food, published by The MIT Press. “My chapter in the book is based on the work I did for my dissertation research, but we have been working together for the past 2-3 years to put together different writings about food for the book. There’s a really strong emphasis on writing in the collection, and the focus on storytelling ranges from the stories we tell about a family recipe that has been passed down through generations to the darker stories surrounding food, such as the foods that came out of a history of slavery.”

Kideckel’s thoughtful scholarship, emphasis on writing and passion for teaching has set him up to feel successful in the classroom. “Teaching at PDS has really changed the way I think about research and writing. Being able to talk about these topics with younger students is such an important opportunity because they’re comfortable to say they don’t understand something. This gives us the chance to discuss topics openly and fluidly, and that ends up being a learning experience for all of us.”

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