On Friday I delivered a lunch lecture to students at Greenfield (Massachusetts) High School.
The lunch lecture program is a sort of continuing-education feature for the students, although continuing education is clearly the wrong term since these kids haven’t concluded their original educations!
Basically, its aim is to expose them to different fields of study, different people, and different careers as an adjunct to their regular curriculum.
I was asked to talk about my work as a food journalist and blogger, to analyze why I love to write about food.
As you can imagine, this was pretty easy. I explained that I got into food writing the way I get into pretty much everything … by accident.
I went on to tell the students about the ways in which food writing makes my life more integrated, connects me to other people, and enables me to write about any topic I choose since just about everything can be related to food one way or another.
I provided a few examples of this wide-ranging focus, explaining that in the past I had linked recipes to such topics as vintage television programs, women’s history, literature, baseball, and astronomy.
I emphasized the ways in which my writing uses just about every subject I have ever studied. I knew this emphasis would go over well. I remember wondering when I was in school whether anything I was learning would ever prove useful in that far-away land called real life.
(Actually, I haven’t ever found much use for biology in my writing, but I don’t rule out being able to work it into an article or blog post one of these days!)
After this brief survey of my work, I asked the students to identify their favorite dishes for me … and to tell me if they could who had first made the dishes and why these particular foods were meaningful to them.
After the first couple of hands went up and were answered, the room exploded with young people eager to share their love of food and family. Among other dishes we discussed Pork-Fried Rice, Dad’s Enchiladas, Teriyaki Pork Chops, Ice Cream with Lavender Sauce, and several different versions of Macaroni and Cheese.
One student who had studied culinary science (I wish they had had that at MY high school) told me about his own creation for a final exam. He had prepared a breakfast pizza with eggs, cheese, sausage, and a multitude of additional ingredients. I’m sure he got an “A.”
We ended our session with enthusiasm—and hunger. The students themselves illustrated my point that food and cooking are meaningful both as pillars of everyday living and as keys to relationships and memory.
So I’m clearly in the right field. Now all I have to do is make A LOT more money cultivating that field…….
Speaking of school-age children, I’ll close here with an essay I wrote in my writing group last week that touches on my much younger self. We were asked to write briefly about a tree. This is what I came up with.
The Apple Tree
I’m not very old—probably about five, old enough to go to school each day but not old enough to have much homework.
Afternoons after school stretch their arms out to me, full of promise.
My first choice in the afternoon would almost always be to go inside and watch an old movie on TV, preferably one in which Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy harmonize as they sing of their love for one another:
“When I’m calling you oo-oo-oo oo-oo-oo………”
Most days, however, indoor, sedentary pleasures are forbidden by my mother. She wants an active, social child as well as a chanteuse.
Today her prohibition of indoor pastimes is fine with me. I have an outdoor mission.
My slightly older neighbor, Jamie Patrick Scios, has broken his leg climbing on the family television set—how and why no one knows. I am enamored of his crutches.
I have one ambition right now: to climb an apple tree in the backyard, hurl myself out of it, break my leg, and obtain my own set of crutches.
I put my Keds-clad feet in successive elbows of the gnarly old tree until I feel very high indeed—maybe as high as eight feet (which is a big deal for little me). I spread my arms apart like wings, launch my body into the air, and head for the ground.
But … I am small and limber, so after a lovely little whirl I arrive intact on the soft grass.
I try again to no avail. Grr.
I have a feeling my mother must have told the tree to take care of me.
Several weeks later Jamie lends me his crutches. They are a lot more work than I expected.
Thank you, Apple Tree, for not taking me too seriously.