Throughout my undergraduate career, I paid particular attention to religion, ethnicity, and language, as avenues of identity exploration and development. While these--and other identifiers--are still very much a part of who I am and what I enjoy researching, I have found that studying food identity and culture offers an accessible way of better understanding an individual and the communities of which s/he is a part.
This blog, which began in January 2011, serves as a personal medium for documenting my myriad food experiences and as a springboard for further discussing the nuances and intimate relationship between food and culture. Situated within an ethnographic approach to food, I extend the discussion table to include the cutting board, i.e., the preparation of food in addition to its consumption, all the while learning through food itself. In isiXhosa, one of South Africa's eleven official languages, ndihluthi [ndee-HLU-tee] means "I am full (after eating)." If anything, I hope that this blog fills you up with the inspiration to cook, consume, or at the very least, say ndilambile [ndee-lahm-BEE-lay], "I am hungry."
Another phrase: "Ukuhamba kukufunda," means "Travelling is learning." And so is eating. Bon apétit and ukonwabele ukutya kwakho! (Enjoy your meal!)
Je parle le français. Umintindi ako Filipino. Ich kenne ein bisschen Deutsche. Ndithetha isiXhosa kancinci. Mi lernas parloras la esperanto. Yo aprendo hablar en español. Io apprendo parlare italiano. And I work with English the rest of the time.
Philippine-born and Metro-Detroit raised, I received my B.A. degree from Albion College in May 2010. At Albion, I double majored in French and International Studies with a regional focus in Africa and double concentrated in Ethnic Studies and Public Policy and Service. For the fall of my junior year, I studied abroad and conducted independent research throughout South Africa, and spent the following spring studying abroad in Paris and interning at Vivre Sans Frontière, a study abroad program for predominantly high school students. Upon my return to campus, I compiled my research into an Honors thesis which addressed the then upcoming English translation of the Roman Missal (put into practice November 2011) and its effect on South Africa’s multi-ethnolinguistic Catholic population; in April 2010, I presented my thesis work at the 38th Annual National Association for Ethnic Studies conference held in Washington, D.C. In addition to my academics, I was heavily involved in both interfaith and intercultural experiences via groups such as the Bridge Spiritual Life Leadership Team and Umbrella, Albion’s unifying organization of the campus’s 12 diversity groups. My continued research interests, developed through my undergraduate experience, lie in using ethnographic methods to better understand the complex intersection of religion, ethnicity, and language; language acquisition and cross-cultural communication; and African art history.
I use, as an overarching framework, the notion of “learning through food,” i.e., learning about people and cultures through the foods being consumed; the recipes which have been passed down, shared and adapted over time; and the meaning behind the meal. My primary research interest is generally in the anthropology of food and more specifically in the gastronomic cultures of the cuisines des terroirs of French frontière communities (e.g., Alsace, Bretagne), as well as the cultures of la Francophonie and their migratory stories (e.g., Québec and New Orleans), with thematic interests in available ingredients and “authenticity,” food presentation and memory, and open air markets and sociocultural exchange. Recognising the role and importance of food identity to the holistic understanding of individuals and communities, I began introducing food and culture programming throughout the campus of Denison University (especially residence halls) in the fall of 2011 and began the Community Culture Kitchen in January 2012 in partnership with Denison's Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. During the 2011-2012 academic year, I conducted research via the aforementioned programming as case studies for a paper titled "Students at the Table: Stone Soup and Undergraduate Food Culture on a Liberal Arts Campus" which was presented at the 40th annual NAES conference in New Orleans, LA.
Now completing my third (and final) academic year as a higher education staff member and as Multi-Cultural Student Affairs Program Coordinator at Denison, I help support the mission of our office (and that of the recently signaged Center for Cross-Culture Engagement) and the students we work with on a daily basis. Alongside my roles in co-chairing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Planning Committee, and coordinating the Paving the Way Pre-Orientation program, as well as the Posse Program on Denison's campus, I spend much of my time working with Denison's multi-cultural student groups, their leaders and their advisors. I am also the editor of "Diversity @Denison," a weekly newsletter geared toward the student population in particular and those interested in diversity work at Denison, and facilitator of The Amava Dialogues, a dialogue group open to all male Denison faculty, staff, and students. For the 2012-2013 academic year, I also organised Denison's first Food and Culture Colloquium. I should note, too, that this past March I presented my previous research and most recent food and culture programming at the 2013 Mini Conference on Food Studies at the Eastern Sociological Society's annual meeting, held in Boston.
This summer, I will be co-leading a group of high school students in France, where we will be "mastering the art of French cuisine". Last summer, I led a group on a black and white film photography program based in Paris, and the summer before I co-led a group of students throughout France (seven cities in five and a half weeks). Shortly upon my return, I will be relocating to Columbus to begin my MA/PhD program in Anthropology at The Ohio State University, through which I will especially utilise a food studies lens in my research.
At the end of my stay in Alsace during the summer of 2011, I was presented with a meal which I credit to shaping my culinary point of view: food should welcome not only a meaningful atmosphere but one which encourages the consumer to take part in the artistry of the food presented. In this process, we become not only culinary artists as we use our bread to paint our plates with the accompanying sauces, but researchers, as well, discovering the cultural artifacts in front of us. Indeed, I see food as a valuable resource in better understanding both the individual and the community. This dinner at l'Atelier du Peintre in Colmar is one of several memories which has contributed to my own identity as an avid cook, an inquisitive eater, and a palatable researcher. I further this analogy to suggest that throughout the progression of each course, a good meal is signified by a clean plate, a clean canvas, i.e., it is in our new creations en route to a new plate and the progression of the overall meal that we should eagerly await the next course and the next experience to study.
Typical Ingredients...Bacon, Butter, Cheese, Chocolate
Cacao Ratio...Dark, 83%
Gelateria...Grom (Florence, Italy)
Food Hub...North Market (Columbus, OH)
Cuisine I Like to Eat but Don't Typically Cook...Filipino
Shaken Lemonade...Pittsburgh (by the Just Ducky Tours pick-up site)
If I Only Had $1...Hot Dog Bun from Tai Pan Bakery (Madison Heights, MI)
Restaurants...Fast Food: Subway; Sit Down Chain: Olga's Kitchen; If Only One: L'Atelier du Peintre
Ice Cream...Readily Available: Mint Chocolate Chip, Espresso Chip; Can't/Hard to Find: Orange Sherbet with Dark Chocolate
Committed to Memory...Beskuit, Candied Citrus Peel, Flan, Handmade Pasta
Signature Dish...M.A.'s International Chocolat Chaud
Go-To Dish...Chicken Cordon Bleu
Transport Back to Home...Chicken Adobo and Rice
Experiment Gone Right...Sweet & Sticky (Beef Back) Ribs
From Scratch...Dough (Pasta, Pie, Pizza), Gnocchi, Tortillas, Sauces (Mornay, variants of Pesto and Romesco)
Best Dish Cooked to Date...Salmon (January 2009, in Paris)
Experience...Eating ox meat at a kraal in Donge, South Africa (Fall 2008)
Special Meaning...Hot Dogs and Rice (Mixed with a Sunny Side Up Egg) with a Side of Green Peas
Song about Food..."Le Festin" (Camille, 2007)
Weaknesses...Fruit Snacks (okay, and Nutella)
Food-Related Movie...Ratatouille (Pixar, 2007)
Chefs I'd Like to Meet...Cat Cora, Celina Tio, Chuck Hughes, Curtis Stone, Laura Calder, Rick Bayless
Chef Who Was on the above List and Whom I've since Met...Carla Hall
TV Shows...Food Network: Iron Chef America; Cooking Channel: Chefography; Bravo: Top Chef: Masters
Currently Reading...Kosher Chinese: Living, Teaching, and Eating with China's Other Billion (Levy, Henry Holty, 2011) and Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Pollan, Penguin Press, 2013)
Basic Premise If I Had My Own Television Show..."At/Across the Border," a food fusion show taking two ingredients/recipes/cultures and creating harmonious meals, while incorporating the migratory stories of the foods presented
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To read a bit more about my younger culinary self, click here.