At first thought, food is simple. We all eat, right? But if we ask who eats what and how, why and when, we find that it's much more complex than we might have imagined.
An Upper School course designed by PDS faculty Elizabeth Cutler, who also coordinates the School's renowned Sustainability Program, delivers a distinctive student learning experience by bringing together literature, socio-anthropology and hands-on experience with farm-to-table food sourcing.For the past four months, juniors and seniors in Cutler's fall English elective "Food for Thought" have been thoughtfully investigating how food is created, locally and globally, how it affects our health and the health of our planet, and how it is related to issues of justice, equity, and politics.
"What I love about interdisciplinary teaching," says Cutler, "is that it models a systems approach, helping students learn that everything is connected. It also offers multiple approaches to learning as complex as the students themselves."
Students drew insights from a wide array of literary sources including Kristin Kimball, Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan, MFK Fisher, Wendell Berry, Gabrielle Hamilton and Jonathan Safran Foer, as well as a variety of poets. They also engaged in research and practical investigation, working in the garden to plant, grow, and prepare vegetables, visiting local farms, cooking with chefs, meeting with a butcher and working in a food pantry. They brought to life family recipes and explored food's relationship to memory, identity and culture.
George Ma '20 recalls, "My favorite part of the course was definitely being exposed to my peers' favorite foods. Not only is it an exciting and unique way to start off a class, but it was a great way for us to learn about each other. Since taking Food for Thought, I have been paying more attention to where my food is coming from when I am shopping. I always seek out organic foods, but I recently began also taking into account the carbon footprint of various foods, considering how far they must be transported."
"This course was about things that mattered, like food, the economy, people, immigration, our country and capitalism," commented Charlotte Haggerty '20. "It was eye-opening to see up close and personal how a farm is run, how food is made, and how incredibly complicated the whole process is. I am much more aware now of the environmental effects of eating offseason, importing food, and most importantly meat production. I try to eat organically as much as possible and I am eating healthier overall. I am also taking part in Meatless Mondays."
The Food Mood magazine is the culminating project of this semester-long effort, allowing each student to delve more deeply into a specific area of interest across multiple genres. Their writing includes personal narratives, reviews, recipes, critical essays on the politics and environmental impact of food, reflections on health and wellness, and much more. So roll up your sleeves, get a fork and knife, and dig into this hearty magazine -- we hope you have an appetite! Download The Food Mood here or browse below ...
– Justin Goldberg