The Girl Behind the Bread Knife

This is the long version of my bio. I swear this was not written out of sheer narcissism. I actually wrote this when I started thinking about graduate school applications in an attempt to explain the roots of my love for food, and that is just a long effing story. I’m keeping it live because why not – not so much because I actually think anyone (other than my parents) will read it.

Where to begin? I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and there are a lot of answers to this. I was borderline obese as a young teen, then I became an anorexic late teen and hated food, then I started reading food blogs, realized peanut butter is not the devil, and started thinking about food as a joy and my obsession with calories lended itself nicely to an obsession with nutrition and the meaning of “eating well.”

BUT, I’d rather start on a high note, so I will start with Ruth. When I was in college, I picked up a copy of Garlic and Sapphires, a memoir by former editor of Gourmet, Ruth Reichl. First of all, this is just a damn good book. She is witty, compassionate, compelling and real. But she also wrote about food in a way I had never seen before. I like to think reading that book (and everything else she’s ever written) planted the first seeds (pun only slightly intended).

 

051

I started this blog in January 2010, at the beginning of my junior spring semester which I spent studying abroad in Florence, Italy. In fact, all posts between January & mid-May 2010 on this blog were written from a teensy kitchen that consistently smelled of garlic and bread crumbs, just a few kilometers away from the Duomo – so if you’d like to see how exactly a 20-year-old spends three and a half painfully brief months eating her way through Tuscany, click away! [Or check out my dedicated pages –> Study Abroad & Firenze, Italia.]

In Florence, I studied at Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici where I took an anthropology course called Food & Culture and a nutrition-focused cooking course. Between those two classes, a city (and country) full of incredible food and even more incredible respect for it, and finally starting the food blog I had been thinking about for a year, I was tastebud-deep in the food world. It became apparent pretty quickly that what I had thought could be nothing more than a hobby or extracurricular interest was – indeed, needed – to be a lot more than that. So I started looking at careers in the wide, overwhelming world of food.

One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew I was a college senior in college, sitting in a dorm room littered with 37 different cookbooks and research works on American food during WWII. (37. I counted.) I was writing my senior English thesis about cookbooks and the venerable M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf.  If you’re at all into food, you simply must read something by this incredibly fascinating woman. She founded American food writing as we know it today. Her writing is eloquent, witty, and timeless.

I proceeded to make my entire senior year as focused on food as possible, and I did pretty well for myself. If you’d like to know anything at all about M.F.K. Fisher, American food during the WWs, the tradition of tea in Victorian England, or the intersection of food and gender in 20th century Tuscany, drop me a line. I’m always happy to nerd-out about these things, and have the research papers to prove it.

Then I graduated. (Converse College, BA in English/minor in music-voice. I’m a mezzo soprano.) Top of my class, thankyouverymuch, and with plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America for a baking/pastry degree. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that I took on a couple of food prep internships (read: unpaid kitchen slave) and it just didn’t click.

After discovering that maybe the preparation of food wasn’t where I belonged, I different things. I wrote a food column in a local newspaper, I guest-blogged on food topics relevant to my town, and I took on a lot of other internships. (Still was not getting paid for anything. Bless my parents’ hearts.) Something finally clicked when I started interning at Chefs Collaborative, a national non-profit based in Boston that works with chefs interested in fostering a more sustainable food system, one restaurant at a time. (Responsible sourcing, utilizing the whole animal instead of purchasing individual cuts, creating relationships with local farmers…etc.) Until then my knowledge of the “sustainable food movement” was rather minimal, and I learned so much so fast about everything – the restaurant industry, non-profit work, social media, what sustainable food means & all the problems our country faces with our current food system, I was in intern there for 6 months, and it was hard to leave when I did. I finally understood that my connection to/interest in food ran much deeper than it’s preparation, and I was confident in my decision to not enroll in culinary school.

But, at that point I was getting itchy to explore this new world in other ways, and internships seemed to be such an efficient way of doing it – true, I wasn’t making money, but I also wasn’t paying tens of thousands for what was at the time a pretty obscure graduate degree. So I found myself another internship in Berkeley, California with MESA (Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture). I had been insatiably curious about what living on the West Coast was like, and I have family there (my dad is from the North Bay), so I had my reasons.

I got out there and ended up taking on a second internship with WiserEarth/Wiser.org, an international non-profit that runs the social network for sustainability. While not directly food-related, the internship was focused on grant writing and I was interested in learning about the development/fundraising side of non-profits. It ended up fitting very nicely.

But as much as I enjoyed all the learning and living in a new place, something was never right there. As much as I was enamored with the prevalence of the local food movement there and the lovely people I met & worked with, I never once felt “right” in the Bay Area. After four months and lots of moving, it was time to go home. So I did.

And as luck would have it, Chefs Collaborative was in the market for a little help at their annual conference, in Seattle this year, and I was only too happy to oblige. Seattle is an awesome city, the conference went almost without a hitch (and I won’t be too humble – I had plenty to do with that), plus I stood mere inches away from Ruth Reichl, our keynote speaker.

It was important for me to take a break from school and get my feet wet in the professional world, but that year after college was a rough one. Working for free was emotionally tougher than I expected, and I just reached a tipping point. Time to get paid.

And thank goodness fate felt the same. My wonderful friend and internship supervisor was leaving her position at Chefs Collaborative and was eager to leave me in her place. So now here I am, Development & Marketing Associate, even if only part-time. It’s a rather amazing group of people to work with, and though no job is perfect, I’m rather in awe of the fact that I am already in the field I want to be in at 23 years old. It’s been quite a journey thus far.

And it’s only just starting, because I hope to begin a Master’s degree program in food studies this fall. After I took a class from Johns Hopkins on US Food Policy & our food system, it became quite clear to me that I was really craving the kind of structured education about food that a grad school can provide. It also helped me pinpoint my specific interests in food – I am fascinated (borderline obsessed, really) with how policy affects the food system in the US & globally. I also get really fired up about food security & distribution issues. And finally, MEAT. Our industrialized system is screwing over everyone – the animals, the farmers, the consumers – except for the corporations who reap damn near all of the money without any thought for the others along the line.

…sorry. Back to my point: grad school. It’s time. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

This blog has been many things over the years for me. It has evolved to become simply a space where I talk about the issues most important to me, from jobs to recipes to life as a semi-confused twentysomething. I’m not as much a writer by choice so much as necessity – I am an extreme (and proud) introvert, and speaking has never been an easy task for me; writing, however, is very natural to me, and I am grateful for be able to create a space in which I can express myself in the only way I know how.

I also LOVE talking about my study abroad experiences, because mine quite literally changed my life and I want nothing more than for other students to have as wonderful an experience as I did. Visit my Study Abroad page for the full story! I’m always happy to offer advice on packing, culture shock, and the Italian train system. You might also check out my Links to Love page – I have lots of study abroad/travel resources, if you’re interested!

So that’s me. Twentysomething, 

aw sinatra cafe

…see? The little things.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s