Monday, November 7, 2011

The Food Lecture, Part I: Writer's Block

Life and literature sometimes overlap. I think this happens for medievalists more frequently than others, simply because we are trained to see the boundaries between categories as porous since our intellectual categories are no longer the categories that are relevant administratively or to our students or to anyone else. (Arabist in a Spanish department, anyone?) I'm having one of those moments now: My teaching has revealed concretely something about myself, namely that I am not a foodie. I love to eat great, fresh produce, and I'm lucky to have lived my entire adult life in cities with farmers' markets ranging from good to great: New Haven, Jerusalem (a different sort of beast, a shouk is from a farmers' market, but nevermind) Ithaca, and now New York. (Ironically, the one in Ithaca, in the heart of farm country, is the most inferior of the lot.) But I definitely don't belong in that rarefied category of people who know many different ways to prepare every type of fruit and veggie that grows locally, are willing to taste anything and light up when talking about food.

I am currently teaching an introductory lecture course (about which I'll write in greater detail at a later date) in which we are using commodities as loci of contact between the center and the margins in literature and history. This week's commodity is food, and I'm just totally uninspired. I like good food, but I think that if I were a true foodie, this lecture would practically write itself. It's not that I'm totally uncurious about the topic — just not so moved by the answers I'm finding that I'm jumping up and down in excitement over the fact that I get to share this knowledge with my students. I don't care, but I don't not care either. A foodie would — well, a foodie would be writing her lecture instead of blogging about writing her lecture. 

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