A Bio About a Foodie Extraordinaire
“In every era, the unfolding of history has been intimately tied to the need for food, the production of food, and the culture of food. In all major religions, food choice has been an integral part of religious identity. The quest for spices and exotic foodstuffs led to the European discovery of the New World, as well as to the connecting of the entire globe through trade. In 1840s Ireland a single food—the potato—changed the course of history. Modern warfare, from Napoleon's conquests to World War II, was made possible by advances in food technology.”From the introduction of “Food: A Culinary History” by food historian, Ken Albala, Ph.D.
You could call me a lot of things…Writer. Artist. Daughter. Friend. But the thing that I was before all that was a foodie. A reluctant foodie, truth be told. For much of my adult life (and even some of my childhood), I worked in restaurants. It was a life I detested. I longed to stop slinging plates and get a real job. That was often my lament, and I dreamed of having an office job somewhere that would take me away from food culture and food-worker hours. (Hint: Restaurant workers usually work when everyone else is out having fun.) It’s back-breaking work.
You’re often treated poorly by customers, who are consumed with the idea that they’re always right no matter what. And who often think that you must be stupid because if you weren’t, you could get a better more prestigious job that required, you know, a brain.…
Or so the thought and attitude among some goes, unfortunately...
But unruly restaurant customers weren’t the only ones sending me negative job- and food-related messages. Society and the media don't always’t help matters. Thinness is in at all costs. The diet industry makes millions off the same 10 or 12 of us perpetually trying to watch our weight. This battle is at cross-purposes with corporate restaurant philosophy, which encourages you as a server in those restaurants to up-sell your customers’ alcohol to a more premium brand. All of this happens before you’re sent a barrage of appetizers, unlimited salad bowls, extra onions costing 50 cents, and the final add-on sale, dessert.
But my reluctance - animosity even - toward food and food culture began to change for the most unlikely of reasons. I had a professor who studied the role of food in literature. Can you even imagine? People actually study why certain foods end up in books like “The Hunger Games.” They even have socio-economic commentary to explain it all. They write and read about food. On purpose.
However, my professor's influence was enough for me to develop a new interest in and new eyes for the foods I was reading about. For example, I developed a new appreciation for the dining room scenes in “Harry Potter.” They were, after all, one of the most prominent displays of English culture in J.K. Rowling’s books, and subsequently, one of the reasons why “Harry Potter” is so difficult to translate - at least for some languages.
Don’t believe me? How about this then? How would you explain plum pudding to a culture that has never had it? Without taking away the flavor of the original story. And without confusing the new audience, which has far different culinary tastes than those of the English, due to their own culture and the geographic availability for certain foods?
Food studies finally has its day, it seems. Did you know that nowadays, food even plays a role in diplomacy and history? It’s called “culinary diplomacy.” And studying a culture’s food is a key component to studying a language.I ought to know. I studied German as an undergraduate. Much of the time, we learned about the traditional foods of Germany, the traditions of which have been kept in trust in the most reliable way possible... They are preserved in the common fairy tale. Who could imagine Hanzel and Gretel without the witch’s house of sweets and cake? Or Little Red Riding Hood without a basket of food for grandma and a hungry wolf?
It was, in fact, the promise of language mastery and new food horizons prompted me to study abroad, where I learned that the traditional German food, the kabab, really isn’t German at all. It’s Turkish, brought to Germany by the Turks, who settled in the country as guest workers after World War II.
But it wasn’t just the guest workers who influenced the foods of Germany and my understanding of how food shapes history. If you walk around Berlin long enough, you’re sure to see signs advertising raisin bomber bread. That’s raisin bread, but it has a very distinct cultural and historical significance. During the Berlin Blockade, when the Soviets blocked all access in and out of Berlin, the Allies dropped boxes of food on the citizens of Berlin. (This was known as the Berlin Air Lift.)
The planes that dropped the food on Berlin became known as “raisin bombers,” due to the sweets they carried, which presumably included raisins. Raisin bomber bread is an homage to the Allies who saved Berliners from certain starvation during that dark year.
Food, like the rest of life, is complicated. As the quote at the top of the page shows, the need of it permeates everything we do. It shapes history and us. So instead of trying to fight with my foodie past, I decided to try and embrace it and ultimately make peace with it. I do this by writing about it. By reading about it. By trying new dishes. By eating deliberately. By finding my new favorite restaurants.
The result of my study of food is this website. Some of the content will be more scholarly. Some will be more tongue-in-check. Some will be more narrative in scope. And who am I trying to kid? A lot of it will be recipes. I’m finally learning what I like to eat. And I'm trying my hand at cooking.
Thus far, the results have been hit or miss, but a whole lot of fun. And very enlightening. What this won’t be is a blog that necessarily supports one food and eating style over another, meaning that while I may have my preferences for how I like to eat now, that doesn’t mean that you have to subscribe to the same philosophy to enjoy what I write about. I’m not asking you to become vegan. And for that matter, I’m not asking you to take up the Atkins Diet, either.
Rather, I hope this blog is an exploration of food and food culture in all its forms, from the literary to the practical. Where your culinary adventure ends up may be different than mine. But I’m okay with that as long as you start to view food more mindfully in the process. We can’t live with out it, but we can decide how we want to live with it.
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