Food changes lives.
Let me address the obvious — it sustains us, keeps us happy and tastes good. Voila. Magic. But no.
More than just filling our stomachs, food brings people together (family dinners), acts as a model to our countless Instagram photos and is a connector of people (culture).
For me, food has been the money-maker when it comes to how I’ve learned some priceless lessons about my life.
Never did I realize how impactful food is in our daily lives until I finished the last slice of my mom’s banana bread on the first Tuesday of college. She had baked me a loaf to take to college, and once I had demolished one too many slices (hello, comfort food!), I felt empty.
Well, aside from the fact that I just devoured half a loaf earlier.
I was missing home – even though my university’s campus is only a ten minute drive away. I wanted to taste my parent’s comfort food, be in a comfortable environment and feel comfortable.*
Wah. Wah. Wah.
On that night, the bread was a hug from my mom and a remedy to my homesickness.
But food acting as a crutch is not what helped me grow.
Twenty weeks later into college, I realize this discomfort is painful but as a wise man once said, what doesn’t kill me makes me “better, faster, stronger.” I still love my mom’s banana bread, but I made a friend who shared with me some of her bread. I’ve discovered His daily bread, and I now feel comfortable walking around campus.
But it definitely was not always like this!
Being the nerd that I am, one of the biggest happy factors of my first freshman year quarters has been my Critical Thinking and Writing classes. I promise, Professor, I am not brown-nosing.
In one of the coolest classes I have ever taken, my professor and the readings taught me to open my eyes. If only all classes involved such thinking and conversations. I moved from a place referred to as the “Cupertino Bubble” to yet another bubble – the “Santa Clara Bubble.” In both cities, my friends and I grow up very sheltered, and a lot of us are shocked by anything bad and not aesthetically appealing. We never really faced the ugliness of the world besides getting parking tickets and having to wait in long lines for pearl milk tea. Even though this Santa Clara bubble is not very different – if not even more “sheltered,” classes such as this allowed me to open my eyes to not only problems such as what is happening behind factory farms but the misconceptions we have on pretty much all aspects of life.
During the beginning of class, we read a book by the hilarious and witty Jonathan Foer called Eating Animals. It was not your typical PETA stand for turning into a vegetarian. In fact, I did not completely believe he was advocating for vegetarianism until the latter part of his book. His book not only revealed the secrets of factory farming, such as how some chickens can only live in sixty-seven square inches of floor space (Foer). He revealed shocking facts after facts about the mistreatment of animals and the (disgusting) ways our meat is packaged. I learned plenty about the cruelty behind animal factory farming and also saw how to present ideas – lots of research certainly helps.
Medium is the Massage, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, was an aesthetically pleasing book that had analyzable objects on every page. This book also stressed the importance of having a deeper meaning behind everything. The book discussed technology and how it is corrupting our society in ways we cannot even see it – the imagery, design, artistic elements all came together to effectively tell this story. I swear there were subliminal messages that slowly seeped into our bodies and minds.
These subliminal messages, however, are often common with companies – especially food companies, in their marketing strategies and tactics. Our class looked at many examples of restaurants and stores adjusting their lighting or packaging to make the food seem more appealing. In my final essay, I wrote about how Starbucks presents itself in a very eco-friendly manner, with phrases of eco-friendliness stamped all over its napkins and coffee sleeves.
Perhaps I am a bit too idealistic, but these ideas are what spur actual actions. I learned that ideas have so much more power than we think. For example, the “spirit” of companies plays a bigger role on its products than we could imagine. In Food Inc, a documentary that explores factory farming, a small child named Kevin died from the unsanitary condition of his burger. The company responsible for his death did not apologize formally, and I believe this says a lot about the character of the company. How a company could let the young child just die and a family mourn without uttering an apology beats me, especially since many fast food restaurants advocate food for the whole family. This embittered me for a bit – I began to wonder how people could become so selfish. Then, I remembered that in Eating Animals, the killers of the animals in factory farms had to desensitize themselves while performing such violent activities (Foer). I think when people distance themselves from objects or people, they become desensitized, making it easier for them to perform unkind acts.
It is up to us to see through these messages portrayed by imagery and aesthethics, and that is something I tried to tackle so often in my essays. In my penultimate essay of the first quarter, I wrote about how aquariums are beneficial to the health of the oceans. Although organizations like PETA strongly advocate against aquariums as animals die to inhumane treatment and neglect (Kretzer), aquariums such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium do a beyond outstanding job at keeping their animals well-maintained. I may publish my essay on my personal blog, so if you’d like to read it, check it out! Though aquariums could get a bad rap for holding animals in enclosed spaces, the Monterey Bay Aquarium makes sure they do not harm their animals – in fact, there aquarium develops close relationships with its animals, giving them nicknames, help when they are injured and temporary sanctuaries. The opportunity for children and adults of all ages to come and appreciate the magic of animals helps people develop closer bonds with animals, just like a little boy did when he saw he’d be eating an octopus for dinner (Child Refuses to Eat Octopus). The Monterey Bay Aquarium affects not only its visitors but the world around them for the better, and I believe that is something every person and organization should do.
This relates back to the video of a young boy refusing to eat his gnocchi — he had enjoyed the view of an octopus at the aquarium a day prior to eating his dinner. He could not believe he was eating something that was alive and moving.
If we simply become aware of what we are eating and doing, perhaps we would all be making smarter, healthier and better choices. This reminds me to take step back and take it one step at a time. I am adjusting to a new place and environment, and I don’t necessarily have to love it right away. I am learning to make genuine friends, see past the “pretty faces” and really see if their hearts are the right place.
Behind all our similar clothes, expensive workout clothes, fancy packaging, it is hard to tell who and what is truly “good” for you. I’ve been learning it’s all about the baby steps. I am learning to find the good people on this campus. While yes, the Santa Clara University campus is beautiful – even the stairs’ mosaics are detailed and gorgeous, I am learning to use the resources rather than just like it because of the looks.
This also brings up how presentation is a big factor in how a message is delivered. I am slowly starting to find out what Santa Clara’s “message” (besides its Mission Statement) is. Just like how Eating Animals and Medium is the Massage craftfully and artistically delivered their messages, Santa Clara University could be doing the same. I believe I will figure it out someday – perhaps it will be something I make for myself.
I look back on these two quarters and laugh. How do two quarters of English classes about food make me discover so much about myself?
Everything I knew was false and everything I thought was false was right.
And that’s all right.
So, to all you fake advertising, marketing, notions about what “beauty” is and everything else I am trying to get past – “I just wanna see you strip right now.”
See? Even rap songs are about food. I will slowly strip it all away!
I encourage you to really take a deeper look on your actions, friends, where your food comes from and where you buy things from.
Til then, I will wait patiently for the next loaf of banana bread.
“Child Refuses to Eat Octopus, Wants Animals to Live.” The Hollywood Gossip. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/videos/child-refuses-to-eat-octopus-wants-animals-to-live/>.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown And, 2009. Print.
Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Documentary Addict/Food Inc. Documentary Addict. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.
Kretzer, Michelle. “Update: Hundreds of Animals Die at the Portland Aquarium-and Austin May Be Next.” PETA.org. PETA, n.d. Web. 14 Nov. 2013. <http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/tags/aquariums/default.aspx>.
Nichols, Scott E. “Verlasso Achieves Seafood Watch Good Alternative Buy Ranking | Verlasso.” Verlasso Achieves Seafood Watch Good Alternative Buy Ranking | Verlasso. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2013. <http://www.verlasso.com/conversation/article/verlasso-achieves-first-seafood-watch-good-alternative-buy-ranking-for-farm/>.