Slow Foods

Written by Amanda on February 22nd, 2010

Today I attended the first meeting for the BGSU Slow Foods Chapter.

logo_testataPuja Batra-Wells, Dr. Lucy Long, and several students brought a potato soup, baguette and homemade butter to share with the participants.

To begin, Dr. Long explained the beginnings of the Slow Food Movement, which began in Italy when several college students gathered to protest the construction of a McDonald’s. The students began rallying against the industrialization of food, in general, and Slow Food was born.

The BGSU Slow Food Chapter hopes to gain enough energy, momentum, and voices to make social change here in BG. They want to encourage dining services to use local produce when it’s available and create healthier menus for BGSU students, faculty and staff. Also, the group would like to participate in the upkeep, harvesting, and winterizing of community gardens (BG has two of them!), and they hope to create a community orchard. Additionally, the chapter hopes to come together for social events. They want to share meals at pot lucks, local restaurants, and dinner parties and create a space where folks can take time to enjoy food and talk about food. As a group, they hope to do other food-centered activities such as visit a slaughter house, learn to make cheese, share recipes, etc.

It’s no suprise that I support Slow Food and signed up to become a member!

During Puja’s dicussion of her expectations I couldn’t help but think of our GSW 1120 Honors class. We’ve discussed so many of the issues Slow Food fights for and against. I think it’s interesting that food unites us, even beyond the dinner table with our family. Today food–good food that is clean and fair–brought together 20+ students, faculty, and staff from different backgrounds and cultures. That says a lot regarding our collective desire to change the industry of today’s food.

The talk today reminded me of Dan’s presentation last week, of when he said that he has almost a spiritual experience when he eats duck that he has harvested and cleaned himself. While hunting and dressing an animal may be a bit extreme for most eaters, it’s important to realize there are plenty of options to help us develop a stronger connection to our food and foodways, and Slow Food brings together like-minded folks so we can learn from one another. I thought it would be neat to have a wild game dinner and talk about the issues surrounding hunting. Or to have a dinner at a farm where only foods harvested from that farm can be served.  Event like these can foster community, inspire education, and teach us to use and enjoy foods more responsibily.

As a GSW class we’re on the brink of the Researched Essay. A lot of the issues we’ve already discussed only scatch at the surface of the thousands of food-related topics that would be perfect for our final essay. Bearing in mind, the Slow Food meeting I attended today, Dan’s presentation, and my own foodie research, I’ve started to brainstorm possible topics for a Researched Essay. For now I’m just formulating research questions: can Slow Food make an impact? What’s been the success rate of Slow Food changing local food systems? With all the use of pesticides and genetically engineered crops, is eating hunted foods, such as duck and geese, safe?

jamieBut the question I continue going back to is one that is pretty dear to me. School lunches and dinners. Every semester I recieve countless essays about how Dining Services serves unhealthy, greasy, fried foods. Students want to see a change made to the menus Dining Services offers. My all-time favority celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, worked tiredlessly to create healthier school lunches for kids in Britain. Can celebrity chefs change food policies, and if so what is the chance of success? I’m still figuring out an angle, but this issue is one that is important to my students, which makes it important to me.


Practice Synthesis Activity

Written by Amanda on February 10th, 2010

In GSW 1120, students are required to incorporate source synthesis in their essays. Source synthesis, in a nutshell, clearly states the relationship of two more sources used to support an author’s main point. As a GSW instructor, I firmly believe that source synthesis is important to academic writing. It increases the writer’s credibility and helps him/her develop the main ideas in the essay. Plus, it produces quality writing. Many reputable academics agree with my position. For instance, Hello Kitty, a friendly cartoon cat, in her book Essay Writing 101 says, “Synthesis is very cute and quite glamorous. It really brings together an argument, much like a good outfit brings together a specific style. In fact, I see synthesis as the Hello Kitty jewelry that pulls together a smart look” (66). Clearly, Hello Kitty comprehends the merit of source synthesis, much like Alf, who also thinks synthesis is the cat’s meow. In his article “Eat More Cats,” Alf, an alien, confirms Hello Kitty’s views when he states, ““I may like cats, but I like synthesis even more.  It shows that you care about your argument enough to find sources to defend, counter-argue, or elaborate on your position” (90-97). Both Alf and Hello Kitty assert that synthesis is essential to researched essays. However, there are others who feel differently. Disagreeing with Hello Kitty and Alf, Simon Cowell, American Idol judge and author of the article “I Proudly Wear Only Black Shirts” from Scholarly Journal United, argues, “It’s just another appalling hoop we’re being forced to jump through—as if we needed essay writing to be more boring” (300-309). Donald Trump, millionaire and author of the website Want To Be Rich?, takes Cowell’s idea one step further by saying, “The synthesis requirement just seems like an unnatural way of organizing an essay.” Both of these sources show how one could argue that synthesis doesn’t have an importance. However, what they fail to realize is that good essay writing relies on pertinent information and thoughtful source support. One doesn’t organize an essay with source synthesis; one uses source synthesis to support his/her own argument. Therefore, Cowell and Trump are misinformed and wrong about source synthesis. It is my goal that students learn how essential source synthesis is to them as writers and scholars. I know in the future they’ll have to use source synthesis in any academic essay they write during their college career, and learning it now may mean the difference between an A and an F.


Say Cheese

Written by Amanda on February 7th, 2010

This past week my Honors 1120 students and I taste tested 5 different cheeses to further develop our palates and to practice source synthesis. The five cheeses were:

Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar by Rosewood Products, Ann Arbor, MI bought at Happy Badger.

Canal Junction Grassfed Sharp Cheddar from Defiance, OH bought at Kazmaier’s Family Grocery.

Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar from Vermont bought at Kazmaier’s Family Grocery.

Kraft Natural Mild Cheddar Cheese from Kraft Foods Global bought at Meijer.

Velveeta from Kraft Foods Global bought at Kroger.

Here’s our collaborative narrative. We hope you enjoy it!

Most of us associated cheese with mice, “holes,” and pasta dishes. Mostaccoli is one such dish that came to mind. Megan writes, “In Chicago we have a really popular restaurant called Barnelli’s and I always get their baked mostaccoli, it’s the best I’ve ever had. Cheese is kind of like a comfort food to me cause I have loved it ever since I was a little girl.” Jessica agrees with Megan and further describes Mostaccoli: “My favorite cheese-related dish is a baked penne pasta in tomato sauce. You can get it at the italian place called DiBennedito’s downtown on the same side of the street as Panera. It’s penne pasta and chicken, prosciutto, mushrooms, peppers, and all kinds of good stuff in a thick cream tomato sauce and the whole dish is covered in baked mozzarella and parmesan cheese, which is the best part.” As a class we determined that when most people think of cheese, they think of pasta and comfort foods, such as Mostaccoli and Macaroni and Cheese. Megan and Jessica illustrate this love of pasta cheese dishes.

After many taste tests, the Happy Badger cheese turned out to be a well accepted cheese by most of the students in the class. The raw milk sharp cheddar cheese appeared to be white in color and it smelt just like a regular cheddar cheese. Erin says, “I didn’t think that it had a whole lot of flavor but I still enjoyed it.” Her opinion is echoed by Megan: “I like most cheeses, especially cheddar cheese and I thought this one was really good.” Rachel describes this cheese as having “a nice flavor to it.” Several students described the cheese as difficult to cut and it appeared to have a firm consistency. Some students were skeptical about the appearance of the cheese, however most of them decided to try it. Lin-z says, “This cheese looks a lot like the gross Canal Junction cheese, but I gave it a shot.” We would recommend this particular cheese because overall it was well-liked by most of our classmates. It maintains an original cheddar taste, but was not too extreme.

Canal Junction Grassfed Sharp Cheddar from Defiance, OH bought at Kazmaier’s Family Grocery is a cheese that is loved by some and hated by others. The majority of the class disliked the Canal Junction cheese. When describing it one person, Lin-Z Tello said said, “This tasted like cow poop. Disgusting. It smells innocent enough but once you take a nibble its like ‘KA-POW’ and your mouth is fighting against the farm. Not cool.” Erynn was one of the taste testers who preferred the taste of this cheese. When addressing her ideas on the cheese she shared knowledge of cheeses produced in different areas to give insight to why this cheese has the distinct taste. She wrote, “I love this cheese. … There is a distinct flavor you can tell what the cows were eating. It Italy, the people who live on the flat part are so obsessed with their cows and cheese, they keep them in barns and only feed them certain grasses and herbs so the milk tastes a certain way, and the cheese produced is very strong like this.” Though these opinions are very diverse, it appears to be a matter of person taste preference for the Canal junction cheese from grass-fed cows.

The Vermont cheese is one of its own, a truly unique piece of cheese. This variety of cheese is white, has a thicker substance, and was generally liked by the entire class. In regards to this cheese, Eryn writes, “This is a good cheese. It’s not to sharp, not too smooth, a good consistency in your mouth. It breaks apart crisply from the brick and sort of cushions your teeth as you chew, truly a pleasure for the mouth.” Stephanie also liked this type of cheese, writing, “It had a little bit sharper of a taste than the Raw Milk one, but way less sharp than the Canal Junction one. Overall, it had a nice consistency.”

In America, when we think of cheese Kraft is a brand that comes to mind. It’s a very common and accessible product in all major grocery stores and food chains. There is no preparation involved for this product. All you must do is simply cut the cheese, place it on a cracker and enjoy! People seem to have different reactions to this cheese, with some enjoying it and others not. As one classmate, Jessica, stated, “The Kraft cheese had a sharp flavor, but it tasted a little fake, like it had wax or oil or something added to it. It’s after-taste made me feel like I was sick for a split-second.” This shows that she was not very fond of the Kraft cheese. Rachel, on the other hand, really liked the Kraft. She said, “I enjoyed the Kraft cheese…the cheese stays together when I cut into it, and long after. The flavor seemed like what classic cheddar cheese should taste like – the flavor I imagine whenever anyone mentions cheddar cheese.” These classmates reactions are an example of how different people enjoy different things.

Velveeta cheese is made by Kraft Foods Global and can be bought at Kroger grocery store. Jessica Miller thought that Velveeta cheese was “gross. It looked like margarine…and it kind of tasted like it too.” Tracy Zack had like thoughts, asserting that “[it] smooshed together when I cut it. It didn’t smell authentic…It was packaged in a foil wrap inside of a box.” Jessica believed the cheese was too processed to the point it didn’t feel or taste like cheese, and Tracy would agree. Both girls had immediate reactions of distaste for Velveeta cheese, and they would not recommend it to others.
As a class we were struck by the differences between each cheese’s texture and taste. We realized, too, that even though Velveeta was clearly the most processed of the cheeses, it was one that recalled many memories and feeling of “home,” which we found important because it showed us that all food has meaning.


Food Presenation

Written by Amanda on January 28th, 2010

Check out my blog The Everyday Palate for my reflection on the food presentation we went to this week.


Today We Welcome Lucy Long!

Written by Amanda on January 20th, 2010

IMG_0708 In honor of Lucy Long’s academic article “Green Bean Casserole and Midwestern Identity: A Regional Foodways Aesthetic and Ethos,” which was published in Midwestern Folklore’s Spring 2007 issue, I made two variations of green bean casserole: the Campbell’s soup recipe and a recipe from Alton Brown that uses fresh ingredients.My goal was to present the classic dish with one of its variations.

I started with Alton Brown’s recipe while I was roasting a whole chicken and parboiling potatoes and carrots to add to the roast halfway through its cooking time. (I multitask in the kitchen, which is sometimes not so smart, like last night when my chicken started smoking, my potaotes boiled over, and my onions burnt…) I started by trimming the green beans and blanching them. Then I cleaned the mushrooms, trimmed and sliced them. Both of those tasks were easy enough. Then I attempted to make my own more healthy, flavorful version of the french fried onions. I sliced the onions, coated them with flour, panko, and salt, and I baked them for 30 minutes at 400, not 475. My oven runs hot. I didn’t want to burn them. But they burned. After tasting them I realized I could use them, but quite honestly I wanted my students to think I was a good cook–not one who burns things. So I resorted for the store bought French’s french fried onions. Suddenly I realized– when the onions were in the oven, when I needed to add the veggies to the roast–that I needed half-and-half to continue this recipe. And I needed milk for the Campbell’s recipe. Thank goodness for good friends. After my dear friend Babs saved the day and ran up to Happy Badger for me, I began the sauce. I browned the mushrooms, added the garlic and nutmeg, added the flour, and then added the half-and-half. The sauce tasted better than condensed soup, but even after cooking it longer than I should have, it still didn’t get the thick. I mixed everything together in a casserole dish and prayed for the best. I decided to pre-make both casseroles, so I could just bake and get to class tomorrow. And I’m glad I thought of that; Alton’s recipe took me a good 45 minutes to prepare.

Then I made the Campbell’s recipe, which as Lucy said, “open cans, mix, and bake” (8-9). This recipe took me under three minutes to prepare. And that was because I got a faulty Campbell’s can. Because of how easy this recipe was vs Alton’s, I started thinking to myself, “Why didn’t I just double this recipe and not offer a variation?”

But after more consideration about the recipes and Lucy’s essay, the Campbell’s recipe actually goes against my food philosophy and practices. I believe in making fresh food that comes from fresh ingredients, preferably local and organic, but if not in season then store-bought organic or at least from the United States. I put more love and care into Alton’s recipe. Maybe that’s because it took more time and obviously fresh ingredients. But I wanted Alton’s recipe to “turn out” good; there was something at stake in it. Whereas with the Campbell’s recipe I dumped ingredients into a bowl, mixed, and poured into a casserole dish. If I think about these recipes in terms of my identity, I want to be a cook who is seen as healthy, conscious of local economies, smart about sustainability, and completely free from any corporate ties. But this recipe is corporate. And, honestly, I don’t know what it says about me as a cook or person. I think of myself as anti-establishment, but is that possible? That’s really the core of my reflection on Lucy’s essay–how can an identity be created if it’s mass-created by a corporation?

There are many ways to consider the foods we eat, but ultimately my main concern, in the end, is if those foods taste good. And my fingers are crossed for both dishes I made. I hope Lucy and my students enjoy them and they lead us to a fruitful discussion about food and identity.


Local Foods: An Opportunity for Our Future

Written by Amanda on January 15th, 2010

Today I learned about this upcoming discussion that will be taking place at the University of Toledo, and I hope to attend it. Just wanted to share the information in case anyone else was interested too.


This event is part of an ongoing community dialogue about the importance of a strong local food system.  

Who:         Mike Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture  (
What:        Presentation:  Locally Integrated Food Systems, An Opportunity for Our Future
When:       Tuesday February 2nd, 7:00 PM
Where:      University of Toledo Health Science Campus, Health Education Building, Room 100
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