I never was really interested in the food that I ate, especially since I wasn’t too picky and ate whatever my mom fed me. All that changed once I entered college and enrolled in a Critical Reading and Writing class.
I first thought, “Great, another English class where I learn pointless rules of how to structure my essays and reading boring essays.” However, this Critical Reading and Writing class completely surpassed my expectations. For the first quarter, we focused entirely upon the topic of “Food” reading books such as Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. This completely changed my perspective upon food that I was putting in my body.
An essay I wrote, “Fever for Health” delved into the eating habits of college students. Having always heard about the so-called “obesity epidemic”, it all seemed far-fetched to me, especially seeing the lack of “obese” students. However, it was eye-opening upon learning that 95% of college students eat below the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (Spain). Furthermore, although a “mere” 4.9% of college students were obese, 21.6% of them were deemed overweight (Huang). I was shocked. Although it wasn’t visible seeing this, I realized the food we consume has much more of an impact then we believe.
Not only do the food we consume affect our bodies internally and externally, there are consequences affecting beyond us. From Foer, I discovered the tragedy of the meat industry, with terrible conditions and treatment of animals that are bred solely for our consumption (Foer).
Now, this caused me to look internally within myself. I had always eaten food that was served for me without much thought besides, “It’s soccer season, so I should lay off of eating junk food.” Never I had given much thought like, “Where is this meat I’m eating come from and how was it produced?” Now, although I haven’t been converted to veganism or vegetarianism, I know think much critically on the food and its quality. This Critical Reading and Writing class actually turned out to truly educate me as I should’ve been previously.
Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. Little, Brown & Company, 2013.
It’s weirdly paradoxical to be in a place where you are aware that you are unaware, yet that is where this class left me. If there’s one common theme that seemed to run through everything we studied as a class and everything I researched on my own, it’s the idea that we are less aware and understand less than we often realize.
During first quarter, we read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. As someone who had fairly recently become a vegetarian, I was interested to read the book, but also expected that most of it would cover what I already knew. I was wrong. I found much of this book surprising. To me, the most shocking part of Foer’s book was his description of how the animal agriculture industry handles animal waste and how this affects people.
In total, all farmed animals in the U.S. produce 87,000 pounds of waste per second. This 130 times what the human population produces. There is no real regulation on all this animal waste. Most often, it is put into football field-sized pools. It often runs off into water supplies and toxins such as ammonia and hydrogen sulfide inevitably evaporate into the air. Children raised near factory farms are twice as likely to develop asthma, while children raised onÃ‚Â a typical hog factory farm have an over fifty percent chance of developing asthma. People living near factory farms also have problems with persistent nosebleeds, earaches, chronic diarrhea, and burning in their lungs (Foer 174-176).
Before reading this book, I was aware (to some extent) that factory farming harmed animals and harmed our environment. What I hadn’t considered was how factory farming harms people.
For one of my essays, I explored how our culture tends to respond to the problem of hunger in the U.S. Often, people see food drives as an easy and effective way of responding to the issue. In reality, we are unaware of how inefficient food drives really are at addressing the problem of hunger. While the average person may be able to take a dollar to the store and buy a can of green beans, food banks are able to use $1 to purchase about four meals (often including fresh produce) because of discounted rates they have access to on food (Schilling). We are unaware of how the problem of hunger can best be solved through monetary donations because we want to feel good about ourselves when we donate a few cans.Â
In another essay, I argued that the clothing industry’s sizing system (or lack thereof) harms our self-esteem. Women’s clothing brands often label clothes so that women will fit into smaller than expected sizes. This sets women up to become frustrated, confused and disappointed. WhileÂ waists of size 8 jeans often vary by three or more inches (Dockterman), women tend to be unaware of this and may tend to blame their own bodies when they can’t find clothes that fit. In addition, studies have shown that women inevitably have to try on a size larger than expected, the negative effect is greater than the positive effect in self-esteem experienced when trying on a size smaller than expected (Aydinoglu; Hoegg).
Perhaps the thing that best drives this point home from this class is something that we looked at within the first week or so: This is Water.
David Foster Wallace’s speech makes an important and challenging point that we are often unaware of our own attitudes and biases. Without realizing it, we go through life with a self-centric view, unaware of the perspectives of those around us. To be aware of other’s perspectives, we must do the difficult work of continually paying attention.
Overall, this class made me aware of a few situations and truths that I was not before. I hope that I continue to grow in awareness, especially in awareness of the perspectives of those around me.
I also think that sometimes we know the truth, but we refuse to acknowledge it for whatever reason. Like Foer says, “It’s possible to wake someone from sleep, but no amount of noise will wake someone who is pretending to be asleep” (Foer 102). Is there any point to awareness if it doesn’t lead to some kind of change?
Aydinoglu, Nilfer Z. and Aradhna Krishna. “Imagining Thin: Why Vanity Sizing Works.” Journal of Consumer Psychology (Elsevier Science), vol. 22, no. 4, Oct. 2012, pp. 565-572. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2011.12.001.
Hoegg, JoAndrea, et al. “The Flip Side of Vanity Sizing: How Consumers Respond to and Compensate for Larger Than Expected Clothing Sizes.” Journal of Consumer Psychology (Elsevier Science), vol. 24, no. 1, Jan. 2014, pp. 70-78. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jcps.2013.07.003.
On September 18, 2017 I attended my first classes at Santa Clara University. After an early start to my day with an 8 a.m. chemistry lecture and 11:45 a.m. calculus lecture, I felt like my day should have been over.
Nope, a 7 hour gap before my 7:20 pm Critical Thinking and Writing English class teased me. And yes, I did say 7:20 PM! I was pre-enrolled for my CTW so was automatically opposed to the class, especially because of the super late time. I remember sitting in our class the first day thinking how unusual of a time it was to be in class. Our CTW class started off as a group of students sitting in awkward silence. The silence would last for minutes and I applaud our professor, Nicholas Leither for being persistent and making us sit through that silence. Eventually our discussions started to flow more as we grew closer as a class and awkward silence was not an issue we had to worry about.
Imagine being a first year college student who is both excited and nervous for finally attending college. You are getting ready for your first quarter of college and after figuring out how to find your classes online, you realize that you are pre-enrolled in a class called “Food Porn.”
I think baffled would be an understatement of how I felt. Food Porn was definitely not a class I thought I would be taking at a Jesuit institution. But, yet that was the class I was enrolled in.
What I didn’t know was how much I would learn from this course. This was not like all the other typical English courses that I took in the past. Nor was it solely focused on food porn. There was so much more in store.
Oh, boy let me shed some light on the new knowledge that this first year college student found out.
It’s August of 2017, and I finally pull up my future schedule for the first time. Everything looks great until, no that had to be a mistake. There’s no way they’d make me go to a class that met from 7:20 to 9 p.m., right? Wow, was I wrong. Fast forward to the first day of class, and I still couldn’t believe that I was walking to class, all the way on the other side of campus, while the sun was going down. To make it all worse, the teacher seemed far too happy to be teaching a bunch of freshman at this awful time on a Wednesday night. I’m not a guy who can handle over-eager optimism, and this guy was just beaming at us from the start. Didn’t he know that I was a Biology major, a science student with absolutely no interest in taking another English class? Needless to say, my first experience concerning Nick Leither and “Food Porn” was not a great one.
Imagine reading one book in college and having it change your entire lifestyle. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer compelled me to return to my vegan lifestyle after reading but one brief chapter. I had adopted a vegan diet the summer before going to college, and while it was easy when I had a huge kitchen and a mother who would buy me vegan groceries, I knew it would be almost impossible in college. So I quit, even though I loved it. I ended up missing my almond milk lattes and grilled tempeh more than I ever thought I would.
At the start of the school year, I was excited about Santa Clara University’s dining hall and all the food it had to offer. I tend to gravitate towards healthy foods, and although my school’s dining hall is healthier than most universities’, the healthy options were still scarce and grew old fast. I quickly became tired of the same salad every night for dinner, and, frankly, the meat in our dining hall grossed me out. I was so bored with my meals that I started to eat unhealthy things that I never ate at home, like grilled cheese sandwiches. Continue reading (Not) Eating Animals //Emma Svensson→
“There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?’”
-David Foster Wallace, “This is Water”
When I walked into my English Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) class on the first day, I had no idea what to expect. My professor, Nick Leither, showed the class David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech “This is Water.” After discussing the speech, Professor Nick switched gears and flicked the screen over to the next slide. The screen displayed the course overview, reading “Food Porn: Reading Food, Self, & Culture.” Both intrigued and confused, I left class on that first day with two questions. First off, how can an english class be entirely dedicated to food? Also, what the hell is water? I had no clue what was to come during the two quarters of this class.
I should first explain that I did not sign up for this class. Every freshman at Santa Clara University (SCU) is randomly placed into a mandatory CTW class before even arriving to campus. I was honestly quite displeased when I learned that I had been assigned a 7:30-9:10 PM CTW class. Convinced that my brain would not be capable of attending class at this time of the day, my naive-self even talked to my advisor to see if I could switch into a different CTW section at a different time. As you can probably guess, my advisor told me to suck it up, and viola- my “Food Porn” CTW class at 7:30-9:10 PM was here to stay for two quarters. Although I was first unhappy by my CTW course placement, the class and its material caused me to reflect on my lifestyle and personal values, which which will continue to stick with me- not only for the remainder of my college experience- but for the rest of my life.