Decoding Alternative Food Communities

I stared down at the entangled green tendrils in the dirt, thinking to myself “What is tatsoi, anyway?”

I was embarrassed to ask. Everyone else seemed to know exactly what they were doing as they crouched between the rows of bushy greens, chatting while weeding with expert hands until perfectly straight rows emerged down the field. Eventually, I got over my first-day-of school jitters and spoke up, swallowing my pride for the sake of the soon-to-be-uprooted plants in my hands. From there, I learned not only about the small oval shaped leaves I was weeding around, but all about the farm crew members, where they came from, and what drew them to the hot, dusty, hard work of growing food for the community.

Through my research for my Gastronomy Thesis project, I was able to meet a diverse group of people working to build community through alternative food. I spent six months digging in the dirt on local farms, wandering around backyard gardens, cheers-ing at community dinners, and talking to people about why the way they eat matters. Participation in alternative food communities leads to a shift in time commitment and personal priorities, assigning a new importance to usually invisible domestic labor. Members of these communities connect over the dinner table; it becomes the place where community, moral values, and self-identity converge.

The most exciting part of my research emerged for me through the interviews I conducted with my participants. Nothing is more affirming for a budding scholar in a new field than to hear someone speak with absolute conviction about the importance of your area of study. My day job falls in the fitness realm, so I spend a lot of time explaining to people that I am not actually a dietician, not a nutritionist, but a sort of food social scientist—and that doesn’t usually answer people’s questions completely.

My thesis project allowed me the opportunity to learn how to speak to the aspects of food studies I find vitally important, and to do the rewarding work of contributing new knowledge to the field. I spent many evenings and days off huddled in the corner of a coffee shop trying to decode modern Marxist theory, hoping to find a theoretical home for my thoughts on alternative food economies in the modern world. I often felt like I would never finish, or that if I did I would never write something worth reading, but occasionally I would put an idea on paper and think to myself, “well that’s something worth sharing with the world.” As a researcher and a writer, I think that’s about as much as you can ever hope for. In the end, with a paper finished and bound, a recent acceptance to present at a conference, and a renewed love for the ivory tower, I feel ready to take on whatever comes next.

Wedding Cakes, Congealed Precedent, and that time I wrote a thesis

by Lucy Valena

From my first semester in the gastronomy program, I’d pretty much decided I would write a thesis. As a project-oriented person hoping to do independent academic writing in the future, it seemed like a good challenge that would help me prepare for the next step in my career. Additionally, I was feeling unsure as to whether or not I would apply for a PhD program after finishing my master’s degree, but knowing there was a chance I might want to definitely solidified my choice.
Since the history and symbolic aspects of food are what that I find most fascinating, wedding cake seemed like a natural target for my research. I had also written a paper about wedding cake history for the intro class, so I at least knew something about the previous work that had been done on the topic.
Wedding cake has survived for such a long time (at least 300 years), and it shows no sign of going away; my question was, simply, why? The project ended up taking me all over the place: my research included reading historic cookbooks, interviews with producers of fake wedding cakes, and analysis of mainstream television. In order to really address my findings the way I wanted to, I had to cobble together theory from three different thinkers.
In the end, I found that wedding cake has survived because of its flexibility and constant shape-shifting. While its physical form has changed so much over time, the value ascribed to it has remained the same- a mixture of commodity fetishism and ‘tradition’, or what I call ‘congealed precedent’. These factors have allowed the wedding cake to remain fashionable and also symbolically important over the ages.
Writing a thesis was the most intellectually stimulating thing I’ve ever done. It was very difficult, and for the last few months of the year I spent working on it, I had the uncanny feeling that my project was eating me alive. I am a painfully slow writer, and I ended up rewriting the paper at least five times before I finally felt it was done. However, getting through it, seeing the challenge and rising up to meet it, was very empowering and invigorating. Since I got my undergrad degree in studio art, before this I had never written anything more than twenty pages (aside from the failed novel I keep in a drawer in my desk). After this experience, I have confidence and excitement about other research and writing I would like to do independently, a task I now feel I have the tools for. Obtaining those tools was my main reason for going to grad school in the first place, and with that in mind, I feel great about the experience.
In the time I was writing my thesis, I got married. In addition, I sold my business of five years, and subsequently underwent the somewhat dramatic lifestyle change of no longer being self employed. Sometimes, life is like that, and everything shifts all at once. If I could do it all again I may have timed things differently, but there was also something magical and liminal about that intense year. Its almost as if I was transformed into a different person, in a time that was bookended by the beginning and finishing of this project. I’m still not sure if doctoral work is in my future, but if it is, I know that I will be much more prepared for it because I wrote a thesis.

Read more of Lucy’s writing and follow her many baking adventures at her blog, Ink and Lemon.

New Instructor: Corby Kummer

The Gastronomy program is pleased to welcome our newest instructor, Corby Kummer.

Heralded by the San Francisco Examiner as “the dean among food writers in America,” Kummer is a welcome addition to our program. He is Senior editor at The Atlantic, where he has worked for over three decades, as well as the restaurant critic at Boston Magazine. Author of two books, The Joy of Coffee and The Pleasures of Slow Food, Kummer boasts five James Beard Journalism awards. Most recently, he has begun writing a monthly column on the intersection of food and culture for The New Republic.

In his course, Food Writing for Media, Kummer will guide students through the fundamentals of food journalism. Topics include journalistic ethics, advertising, recipe writing, and food criticism. In keeping with the interdisciplinary nature of the program, this course will take scientific, technological, anthropological, and historical approaches to writing about food.

Welcome, Mr. Kummer. We are excited to have you!

More New Students for Spring 2016

The MLA in Gastronomy and Food Studies Certificate programs are happy to welcome a new cohort of student for the Spring 2016 Semester. Here is your chance to get to know a few of them:

KappelerChristian Kapeller was born in the region of Carinthia, which lies in the south of Austria, bordering Slovenia and the Italian regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Veneto, which are famous for their food and wine. He grew up with the Austro-Italian way of life regarding culture and culinary habits. He enjoys exploring and getting to know other cultures with their culinary characteristics and different business environments. During his Bachelor studies in International Business Administration at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, he took the opportunity to work as an intern for a travel agency in Hong Kong for two months and to participate in the International Summer University program in Austin, Texas, organized by the McCombs School of Business. This experience abroad piqued Christian’s interest for the gastronomy sector.

While in Texas, Christian realized how enormous the innovation potential within the food and beverage sector could be. He writes “After one of our intensive meetings regarding our marketplace simulation at the McCombs School of Business I went out with one of my colleagues with the goal to taste one of the famous Berlin-inspired Kebaps from Austin, Texas. The innovative products offered by a specially developed distribution system of VertsKabap, founded by two German business students some years ago, were fresh, delicious and healthy. For my colleague and me it was obvious that the highly professional and well organized start-up could become successful in the future. Nowadays, VertsKebap is a symbol of the “Kebap eating habit” as the young and creative brand offers its products at many locations all around Texas.”

Christian plans to focus in Business and Entrepreneurship during his time in the Gastronomy program, and looks forward to meeting and learning from lots of student colleagues, professors and industry professionals from various backgrounds with different views.

Morgan Mannino was born in the landProcessed with VSCOcam with g3 preset of Omaha Steaks and sweet corn, but among the six states (and counting) she’s lived in, the state where pork barbecue is king, Cheerwine is his queen, and Texas Pete is the outlaw roaming the beautiful landscape is where she feels most at home. She currently lives in Jamaica Plain and originally came to the Boston area almost 6 years ago to pursue her BFA at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. During her time at the SMFA and Tufts almost all of her artwork and academic research was rooted in food studies. There she had the opportunity to study abroad at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris where she fell in love with gastronomy even further. After completing the program, she began working full-time in the Sponsorship department at America’s Test Kitchen where she still works today by day. She still keeps up her art practice on the side and taught painting to adults at Newton Community Education up until being admitted to the BU Gastronomy program. She loves the way food can be a vehicle in which to experience personal histories, public histories, cultures, etc and is excited to be in an environment that will foster her love of food further. She is also excited to be surrounded and inspired by her peers and professors to take that love and knowledge to another level. Through the program she would like to pursue both a focus in history and culture as well as business and entrepreneurship. Follow her adventures on Instagram: @momannino.

New Students for the New Year

The MLA in Gastronomy and Food Studies Certificate programs are happy to welcome a new cohort of student for the Spring 2016 Semester. Here is your chance to get to know a few of them:


Frank CarrieriFrank Carrieri is not your stereotypical New Yorker. He smiles at passersby, properly articulates the letter ‘r’ in words like mother or father, and doesn’t think New York is the only place to buy good pizza. He is a strong believer in that there is no sincerer love than the love for food. Since the young age of 17, Frank has lived, breathed and dreamed about food. With years of industry experience he has created an uncontrollable passion to learn as much as he can. Frank started out working in fine dining. He admired the kitchen atmosphere- the fast-pace environment, the camaraderie, and the love for the craft. Frank took that drive and enrolled at Johnson & Wales University, where he earned a bachelor’s of science in Baking & Pastry Arts & Food Service Management. During his tenure at J&W, Frank had the privilege to work with many inspirational and talented chefs.

Competitions paved a way for Frank’s growth as a culinarian. He was a part of an international pastry competition in which his team placed first. Frank and his team were featured in Dessert Professional magazine for their victory. As he enjoys all things baking, Frank has a strong relationship with chocolate, contemporary plated desserts, and molecular gastronomy. Currently, Frank is working for a 5 star luxury hotel where each day is a new and exciting challenge. He hopes to one day build the dreams and curiosity of the future young culinarians by teaching baking & pastry arts. When Frank is not in the kitchen, he is at an indie concert or exploring Boston. He is fan of geometric and abstract art and has an obsession with French Bulldogs.


Lennon-SimonAlex Lennon-Simon was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. As a child she was in an urban farming program at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which piqued her interest in growing her own food. After graduating from the program, she worked for many years as an educator at the BBG while earning her BA from Bard College, where she majored in American Studies with a focus on race and income inequality. Since then, she has worked in a variety of fields, from horticulturalist at the Butterfly Garden at the Museum of Science, to landscape garden designer. Alex has since left the field of ornamentals, and returned to growing vegetables. She currently works at Waltham Fields Community Farm, where she manages the education programs for kids and families, the youth employment program and WFCF’s Outreach Market for low-income families, and feeds and cares for WFCF’s chickens. While enrolled in the BU Gastronomy program, she plans to focus on food systems and food access.


Daryl MogilewskyDaryl Mogilewsky received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at the University of Oregon. The degree required traveling, studying a language and selecting a geographic region to focus on. However, what she enjoyed most about the program was its attention to international issues and social justice. Through the study of historic and present day perspectives she was exposed to the inextricable links between international issues of poverty, education, environment and health.

Daryl found herself focusing a majority of her term papers on health related issues and specifically on food and it’s social, economic, political, environmental and cultural implications around the world and here at home. She believes that our food system, through education and program/policy creation, can play a major role in enhancing the physical and emotional health of our communities. She also believes that good, affordable and accessible food should be an inalienable right.

As an ardent food enthusiast, Daryl aims to build the necessary skills to create wonderful food, to tell stories about food and to make “good” food more accessible.


Mindy SherbetMindy Sherbet is an incoming Spring 2016 Food Certificate Student who has been in the culinary world since she was 8 years old. It all started with baking cakes for her grandmothers weekly visits, which sparked an interest and enthusiasm that continues to this day. Mindy moved to Boston four years ago from NJ with her husband and three children. A former marketing professional, she now spends her time following her various passions of food and learning languages. Mindy has a part-time personal chef business that keeps her culinary skills current and constantly evolving.


Jessi VanStaalduinenJessi VanStaalduinen recently graduated from Appalachian State University with her Bachelor of Science in Food Systems Management. Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, the move to Boston will have her far from home, though she is ecstatic to travel. She has worked in many sorts of food establishments and hopes someday to own one herself. Hailing from a home with no culinary interest, Jessi has soaked up all foodie knowledge like a sponge cake. Positive, creative, and passionate, Jessi is cooking, writing, reading, and talking about food constantly. She especially has a passion for food justice. She wants to help the country (and the world) progress to be more sustainable to protect the future’s food supply. She firmly believes that people should know what they’re eating and where it comes from, therefore she is excited to move to a city where she will have many local options to choose from. Jessi can be found drinking coffee at all hours of the day.



Darra Goldstein Brings Classic Nordic Cooking to Life with Fire + Ice

By Amanda Balagur

Reindeer StewAlthough she’s best known as the Founding Editor of Gastronomica and Professor of Russian at Williams College, Darra Goldstein has a long-standing history with Scandinavian cooking. She first ventured to that part of the world in 1972, when she flew to Finland and took a weekend bus from Helsinki to Leningrad (she was studying Russian then). In 1980, she had plans to go to Moscow to research her dissertation, but unforeseen circumstances related to the U.S. boycott of the Summer Olympics resulted in a change of plans — she and her husband, newly married, ended up going to Stockholm, Sweden instead. Goldstein describes herself as being quite taken by Scandinavia, calling her latest cookbook, Fire + Ice, a “cultural excursion into the way people actually eat there” in contrast to the often innovative and highly conceptual New Nordic cuisine.

The cookbook focuses on four core countries: Finland, Sweden, Denmark Fisherwomanand Norway. The name Fire + Ice reflects the two key elements that define the region. Photos of snowy landscapes, silvery architecture and windows glowing with amber warmth gave the Pepin Lecture audience a feel for Goldstein’s inspiration as she described the local cuisine. Cold and warmth are reflected in traditional beverages such as glug, which is mulled wine spiced with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamom served warm in the wintertime, and schnapps or aquavit, a distilled liquor made from grain and flavored with caraway, ginger, cardamom or even young birch leaves.

SmorgasbordGoldstein explained the evolution of one of the most familiar Scandinavian offerings, the Smörgåsbord. It started out as a table displaying an array of schnapps, to which food was added until it became institutionalized as the feast we think of today. According to Goldstein, there is a certain way to eat at a Smorgasbord, which is broken up into five courses: his majesty the herring (a fish so important to local cuisine it’s admired in isolation like royalty!), other fish and seafood, cold meats and salads, hot dishes and desserts. After the Smörgåsbord was introduced to the U.S. at the 1939 World’s Fair, it became all the rage and eventually turned into the all-you-can eat buffets and salad bars that pepper the American landscape to this day.

Other items of importance in Scandinavian cuisine include brown bread, Dried Fishmade from grains like barley, oats and rye, which ranges from chewy sourdough to delicate crispbread, and pickled, salted and fermented fish, which range from mild (gravlax) to pungent (suströmming). Additional favorites include foraged greens, mushrooms and berries, and dairy products like cheese and butter. The region’s cuisine reflects seasonality, indigenous influences and Viking conquests – it’s no coincidence that spices like cinnamon, saffron and nutmeg, encountered centuries ago via the Silk Road, are now associated with Scandinavian cuisine. The art of preserving food, shaping anthropomorphic Christmas cookies and infusing liqueurs is as much a part of life in this realm as the extremes of light and dark. To learn more about Darra Goldstein and Fire + Ice, click here. Book Signing




How to Be an Academic Food Writer

By Anna Nguyen

I am a failed food writer. For many, many years, I have tried to write publishable food narratives, but with no real success. And yet, oddly enough, I read quite obsessively. Though not all of my reading materials revolve around food or food culture, many of my favorite reads are food-focused: essays by George Orwell; Steven Shapin’s recent efforts on wine and food histories; Haruki Murakami’s pieces about his cooking practices and eating preferences. I am keen on reading any memoir by chefs or food personalities. The list goes on. People say reading is an indicator of good writing, but I am proof that this sentiment does not hold true. The only reason I write so uncharitably of my forays in food writing is because I lack the ability to write sensorially; that is, I have not yet trained myself to write sentimentally about food using any other senses than the visual.

How does one write about taste in a way that evokes anything but just visual inventory? How does one successfully translate a fleeting, visceral moment into words shared with others? These were — and still are — questions that I always ask myself as I attempt to write. I am perhaps thinking too much about the words in use. That is, I find it extraordinarily difficult to put into words what I’ve just tasted. I try and try and try, and I still find the end result unsatisfying. There are days that I’ve come to terms with my reductionist perspective. Some days, terse paragraphs are sufficient; other days, many other days, I’m like Thomas at the end of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. I leave many unfinished and untitled essays on food on Google Drive because I cannot muster any profound words to write what I intend to say.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of my failed career aspirations is that I’ve found focused research interests in the Gastronomy program. As I am planning my thesis, I intend to address the problem of food writing and the limitations of the language of food. In particular, I intend to try to understand the meanings of words in use — what is the inarticulate trying to articulate, and how language and epistemologies are constructed and shared.

IMG_20151217_143056My interests were shaped during my first year as a graduate student. While attending classes, I found myself growing fond of discourse analysis, textual analysis, phenomenology, and social theory — all things that I had at one point during my undergraduate years hated and tried to avoid. But to know theory is to be able to use and criticize what is lacking. Merely suggesting that language and knowledge are social constructs are non-answers that do not address the problems that I’m interested in, problems like the vagueness of food policies and laws, and food literacy. Nor does the concept of “social construction” add anything meaningful to ongoing academic conversations. If I am thankful for anything about my time as a graduate student in the Gastronomy program, it’s for the reason that I am able to intelligibly articulate what I don’t like with more force.

I’m still writing, though my writing has shifted focus. I tend to write with a more academic tone, but it’s probably not as academic as one imagines. Allusions to my literary background and journalistic experience are still present, though I’ve tried to dismiss unnecessary imagery. Great scholars like Arjun Appadurai, Gary Alan Fine, and Steven Shapin have written about food and culture without adhering to a strict academic template, and that’s something I wish to emulate. Perhaps it’s something I’ll attempt in my proposed thesis.

As I prepare the initial stages of thesis writing, I’m reminded that food writing existed long before food studies was birthed. During my first meeting with Walter Hopp, my thesis advisor, he heralded the chowder description in Moby Dick as being great food writing. I’ve been so buried in theory and academic texts that I’ve forgotten about literature. Perhaps on some much-needed breaks from the exhausting writings of Peter Singer and Michael Pollan, I should look back at the food writings of George Orwell and Virginia Woolf. And maybe it’s finally time to read about that damn whale.

Inspiration from a World Apart

By Elizabeth Nieves

Sitting on the plane of my first international flight, I tried to imagine the landscape that would greet me when I arrived and the new faces I would see, knowing that the next ten days would undoubtedly impact my life. The small group I was traveling with was bound for Haiti. As our flight landed in Santiago, Dominican Republic, our comrades on the plane cheered. We had arrived. The butterflies of not knowing what lied ahead set in.

IMG_3057After a short night in the DR, our bus driver taxied us through the vast, dry countryside until we reached the Haiti-Dominican Republic border. Luckily, when we arrived at the border, it was open, as we were later informed that the border is subject to be closed any time they please. Sitting in the bus, while our bus driver, Juan, took our passports to be processed was intense. Would we be granted access to cross into Haiti? As we waited, children crept up alongside the bus to beg for money or to try to sell us trinkets. When they were spotted knocking on our windows, the police shouted and chased them away.

After about twenty tense minutes, we were on our way across the country


lines. I most vividly remember looking out the window from my seat on the bus at the women who were washing their laundry and bathing their children in the river running along the border. What was a typical day for Haitians and Dominicans was a day full of new sensory experiences for me. In no time at all, we arrived at the school hosting us in Ouanaminthe, Haiti — a border town in the northeast region. The subsequent days were filled with completing projects around the school, playing with kids, visiting rural neighboring towns, spending time in elderly communities, eating squash soup, and a little sightseeing.

Haiti 2Less than six months after returning from Haiti, I found myself in a global food policy class at BU. For our midterm and final papers, we were tasked with selecting a country to research its nutrition situation, agriculture production, food security, and its progress on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other food policies. As I thought about which country I would spend most of the semester researching, I thought back to all of the faces I met in Haiti: sweet Emilia from Le bon Samaritain (the Good Samaritan), the creative little boy who crafted a toy car out of a motor oil container and plastic caps, the fishermen along the vibrantly colored coast, and the children that sang to us as we colored with them in their classrooms.

Most of all, I thought about the hands I held for hours as we walked around the impoverished town of Dérac making house visits on a sweltering day 2009-12-31 23.00.00-65with no trees in sight to take a rest in the shade. Many of these children did not have shoes, clothing, or food as evidenced by the swollen bellies around us. Several of them had beautiful red hair, which is quite out of the ordinary. I was later informed that the hair I found so uniquely beautiful was due to an ugly cause: severe malnutrition. It left me wondering why some people lived in such poverty while others were able to thrive in plenty. Thus, my questions of “Why is there such great poverty in Haiti?” and “How can the situation improve?” led to me researching Haiti for my global food policy class. Although Haiti has been impacted by many natural disasters and lacks resources, consequently leaving many people food insecure, the country is full of beauty and resilience.

Turning an Avocation into an Education

By Ilana Hardesty

As a new member of the Gastronomy program, I’d qualify myself as an “older” student; I’m taking my first class in about 32 years. My first semester is winding down and I’m reflecting on my choice to go back to school and pursue a Certificate in Food Studies at the age of 54. I don’t quite trust myself to make the full commitment to graduate student life by pursuing a master’s in Gastronomy yet.

storefrontUnlike some of my classmates, I do not have a career in the food industry. I work full time on the BU Medical Campus in Continuing Medical Education. I do, however, have a lifelong avocational interest in food. I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother – a healthy dose of Jewish cooking mitigated by a father born and raised in Iowa with a love of pork chops. As an adult, I found both solace and excitement in cooking, and also in reading about food insatiably. I dabbled briefly in nutrition science, working at the Tufts School of Nutrition and taking a couple of introductory courses, and discovered the joy of communal cooking and being at the front of the classroom by teaching the occasional adult education class around town. Now, it is time to impose discipline on my avocation. Since I work full time, this will be a long-term project; I am assuming that I’m on the five-year plan by taking one class per semester.

My inaugural class is the Anthropology of Food, and it has been a fascinating journey. While I am still getting my “sea legs” and learning how to think and write in a critical and scholarly way, I have enjoyed every minute of the time I’ve spent doing classwork – even when I want to cry with frustration at how out of practice I am at being a student (I’m looking at you, Lit Review!). I suspect that my husband might feel a bit differently, as 20-plus years of routine are disrupted by my classes and homework.

The Anthropology of Food is a perfect first class, because it provides structure and academic context for the things Photo Sep 24, 9 58 44 AMwe all observe on a daily basis. How does food define us? Why do we purchase, or cook, the things we do? What do our choices say about who we are? The class has made me stop and think about virtually every food transaction I myself make, let alone what I observe just moving through my everyday life.

The course, taught by Ellen Rovner, includes a semester-long project that is very thoughtfully broken up into chunks: identifying a venue in which transactions around food take place (a shop, a restaurant, mom’s kitchen) and conducting an ethnographic study of it. Through the project, I have learned not only about one specific place but also about what anthropology is and what anthropologists do. Over the semester we have been building toward our final paper , from participant observation and in-depth informant interviews to the literature review, and then pulling it all together. This has given us an opportunity to thoughtfully and through real experience develop our research questions.

Photo Sep 24, 10 02 44 AMI live in Watertown, MA, home to one of the largest Armenian communities in the U.S. It’s full of Armenian markets. As my research venue, I chose Sevan Bakery, a place where I already shop on a regular basis. As a non-Armenian, I was interested to explore the reasons both Armenians and non-Armenians choose to shop there as opposed to (or in addition to?) the other three markets within a half-mile radius. I learned a great deal through observation and interviews, much of which challenged my assumptions and made me rethink my questions. In many ways the project has been very personally eye-opening, forcing me to apply the theories I’ve learned in class (about cultural distinction and identity, for example) to my own assumptions, as an outsider, about how a cultural group like Armenians identify themselves. Because there are some parallels between Armenian history and Jewish history (ancient cultures, centuries of displacement, oppression, diaspora), I have found myself reflecting on my own cultural history.

As I work on my final paper, I can only hope that I do both Sevan and myself justice! In the end, though, as much as I have enjoyed the reading assignments and the writing for class, my favorite part has been getting to know my classmates. I am impressed with their varied backgrounds and look forward to getting to know them better, and learning from them.



Playing with Your Food

By Marina Starkey

As a child, I always played with my food. Ok, so I still play with my food. There’s something about turning one thing into something else, maybe something better, toying with my strong kinesthetic senses, indulging my (possibly misguided) creativity, and seeing how flavors work together on the palate, on and off the plate. Maybe it’s gross, but maybe it’s important too, because it led me here.

When I tell people what I’m studying in grad school, the normal response goes something like, “You study astronomy? That’s awesome!” To which I respond, “No, gastronomy, with a ‘g’” only to be met with confused looks and a need to quickly explain my academic career. While home for Thanksgiving my own father called me a “gastroenterologist.” Not quite.

Gastronomy, a relatively new field of study concerning itself with how we, as humans, relate to food, perplexes many, and understandably so. When I applied to Boston University’s Gastronomy program, I barely knew what I was getting myself into. I was looking for direction or a peek into something I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be involved in the culinary world in one way or another: I wanted to play with my food. And although I’m only heading into my second semester in this program, it’s easy for me to say my education is much more than that.

My course of study includes a focus on food communications, which includes everything from writing to PR, marketing, and advertising. I’ve been lucky enough to have an internship in hospitality PR at 451 Marketing to supplement my education. But even though communications is my focus, my education through this program is full of history, sociology, science, and government policy, to name a few. Though I can’t be sure of the direction I’m headed towards, these experiences within different fields of the food studies world are extremely valuable. I came into this program hell-bent on becoming Alton Brown’s successor. That piece of me that wishes to indulge myself in food science is still very present, but I also wonder what a career doing PR for chefs and restaurants would be like, what it would mean to do advocacy work for food pantries, or how I would begin to start my own food business.

These considerations within any field of study are an essential part of one’s education. The Master’s in Gastronomy program at Boston University allows me to explore aspects of the food studies world of which I previously held no knowledge. It’s introducing me to hundreds of new ways to look at food. From the anthropological significance of certain kitchen objects to the philosophical and psychological beginnings of our personal palate, there are no limits on what’s possible. In its essence, this program teaches me new ways to see, to feel, to taste, and most importantly, to understand. It allows me to turn one passion into something else, toy with my senses, indulge my (well-guided) creativity, and have a better understanding of what works for me and what doesn’t. It teaches me all the new ways I can play with my food.