With a new year, comes new modules. After a restful (and lazy) few weeks stateside, I’m back in Scotland ready for a second serving of gastronomic learning.
On Monday, we had our introduction to the food system. Field trips this semester include visits to farms, supermarket distribution centers and probably an abattoir (a slaughterhouse)…definitely not for the faint of heart (or stomach).
We also had a visiting lecturer, Elli Kontorravdis, Policy & Campaigns Manager from Nourish Scotland, who spoke to us about their efforts in aiding the Scottish Parliament with the Good Food Nation bill that is expected to be voted on sometime within the next year as well as our right to food. Interestingly enough, we learned that although a nation signs or agrees to an international law, they aren’t required to ratify it into law back home (lends a bit of insight as to why some argue that intergovernmental bodies like the U.N. don’t have as much pull as one might think).
Tuesday was an intellectual and philosophical doozy… we had our introduction to food communication and consumption beginning with the basics of what communication is as well as various types of food communication there are. We were also told what to expect this semester including a field trip in March to some restaurants in Edinburgh to see how chefs use food, menus, and other aspects of their restaurants to communicate with their diners.
In the afternoon, we were introduced to philosophical reasoning, and had a couple of rounds that centered around the subjectivity and objectivity of taste as well as whether food and thought were mutually exclusive or not. Although there was a bit of a learning curve, I enjoyed the rounds of philosophical reasoning as it forced us to not only listen more closely to what others say, but to what we said as well.
The day finished with a lively debate on whether food is art or not… the majority, if not all of us agreed that food could be art, so it was difficult for those put on the opposing side to argue against it. Jonathan Jones argues in the Guardian that while food can be artistic, it cannot be classified as art. He says that as long as diners are not completely disgusted or don’t think about death while enjoying a meal at restaurant, cooking is not art. Mind you, this opinion comes from an art critic who probably hasn’t spent any extended period of time in a kitchen or done much of any research on the subject of cooking and food.
Also, if disgust is a requisite for food to be classified as art, Mr. Jones must have never heard of Casu Marzu, a rotten Sardinian cheese filled with live maggots (a food many are grossed out by), or heard of pink slime (banned in the EU, but still used in the US), a cheap meat filler and former key ingredient in McDonald’s chicken nuggets.