Recent Alumna Talks Food and Philosophy In Reflection on Maymester in Tuscany

November 23rd, 2016 by 


Image by Mary Elise McGrail '16

Mary Elise McGrail ’16 participated in associate professor of philosophy Andrea Borghini’s “Philosophy of Food” Maymester course in Tuscany twice, once as a student and a second time as a mentor. The summer study abroad program changed how she approaches a meal.

I had the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted on the 2014 Tuscany Maymester. I will never forget the level of concentration a group of 18- to 21-year-old Holy Cross students exhibited as chocolatier Paul De Bondt insisted we let a sliver of chocolate melt on our tongues, rather than chew it and ruin the complete tasting experience. Needless to say, Paul was right. The chocolate was so transformative, I had to return this past summer.

I don’t think anyone who knows me well was surprised when I chose to partake in a learning experience with “food” in the title. Indeed, Professor Borghini’s course distinguishes itself from all other Maymester experiences in this sense. Food encounters are the most daring aspect of the course. I became newly acquainted with food as a medium that can challenge and disturb my sense of self (read: a regretted bite of cow brain) or cause euphoria (see above for chocolate) and was transformed by how much food matters in the presentation of a culture, community or family’s self-understanding.

There is no university in the small town of Panzano in Chianti, Tuscany, Italy. Students gather in an open community space for class, but much of the learning experience happens hands-on under the tutorial of experts in kitchens, farms, orchards, vineyards and beyond. The Tuscan landscape is the university, breathing life into the trope that studying abroad allows students to live the challenges encountered in the classroom.

Likewise, the new knowledge and consciousness taught in the class infuses a high degree of responsibility into the independent choices made regarding food. You are encouraged to ask your questions about ethics and sustainability from the texts, but also expected to understand the honest answer when looking a Chianina calf in its curious brown eyes or standing next to a 2,000-year-old olive tree a family has tended through drought and epidemics for generations.

The course impressed upon me the importance of valuing our food at mealtimes. In doing so, food serves as not only nourishment, but as the basis for conversation, creativity and connectivity to others. Setting aside time for meals is not easy in our current culture, but the effort can be deeply rewarding, especially if a part is spent in gratitude. Students visit places such as farms to understand what it means for an animal to give its life and vineyards to see the investment of time, faith and money producers make in a small and vulnerable fruit. Bearing witness to these sacrifices culminates in a formed conscience about what we’re eating and what it means to eat it.

The “Philosophy of Food” Maymester continues to provide direction for how I want to live. The course does not seek to preach to you, but rather help you evolve in your awareness and attitudes towards the prevailing food culture, which includes a mindfulness of waste.

Since I’ve returned, I’ve found it worthwhile to approach meals with a series of questions — the first being, “Where did this come from?” — rather than solely accepting food as a means for satisfaction. In doing so, the choices I make about food can bring about change for the better. As the leaders of the Maymester, Professor Borghini and, of course, chocolatier Paul De Bondt, taught their students that patience is key in synchronizing to the needs of your environment. I was privileged to experience a change of landscape — and palate — to understand this.

Written by Mary Elise McGrail ’16 and originally published in the Fall 2016 food-themed issue of the Holy Cross Magazine.

Read more about the philosophy of food from Andrea Borghini, associate professor of philosophy, in the Holy Cross Magazine.

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In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Environmental Studies Alumni Career Panel
9/28/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Come hear Holy Cross Environmental Studies alums talk about their...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/28/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/28/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/29/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/29/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
9/30/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Stickwork: Patrick Dougherty, "Just Off the Beaten Track," 2016
9/30/2017
Arts Transcending Borders (ATB)
Lawn by Linden Lane
In September 2016, Arts Transcending Borders (ATB), in association with the Cantor...
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/2/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
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Women in Finance Panel & Networking Event
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A/B/C -4th Fl
Hors d'oeuvres and networking following by an alumnae...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/2/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Deloitte On-Campus Interviews
10/2/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about opportunities at Deloitte...
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 5
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 3
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 2
Open to Campus Community Only
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National Depression Screening Day
10/3/2017
Counseling Center
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Lobby Table 4
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/3/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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RSM On-Campus Recruiting
10/3/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with RSM! Open to Campus...
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Lecture: Julie Rubio on Hope for Common Ground
10/4/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
In the current political climate, common ground can seem impossible...
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7 C's of Social Change (Event canceled)
10/4/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304(05)
Open to Campus Community Only
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/4/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Silicon Valley Bank On-Campus Interviews
10/4/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections for opportunities with Silicon Valley...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 2
10/5/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode II – “The Story We Tell” uncovers the roots...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/5/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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EY On-Campus Interviews
10/5/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 403
Apply in Crusader Connections to interview on campus with EY! Open...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/6/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Gabrielle Thierry: The Musicality of the Water Lilies
10/7/2017
Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery Open to the Public
O'Kane Hall Cantor Art Gallery 2
The Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery will present the paintings...
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/9/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Edith Stein Hall 208
Open to Campus Community Only
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Finance Boot Camp 2017
10/10/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Smith Laboratories 155
Open to Campus Community Only
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Male Involvement Coalition (MIC)
10/16/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
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Lecture: Kevin Esvelt on Gene Editing
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Kimball Hall Seelos Theater
When should we edit nature? Kevin Esvelt, assistant professor of M.I.T....
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Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate (Event canceled)
10/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. Info Session
10/16/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 304
Learn more about K-12 Teaching and Administrative positions at private...
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Lecture: Richard Higgins '74 on the Riddle of Thoreau's Religion
10/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Holy Cross alumnus Richard Higgins '74 will give a talk titled,...
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Carney, Sandoe & Assoc. On-Campus Interviews
10/17/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Apply in Crusader Connections for K-12 Teaching and Administrative...
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Reading by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
10/18/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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William James College Info Session - Careers in Psychology and Behavioral Health
10/18/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 407
Come to this info session presented by Dr. Bruce Ecker of William James...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/19/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 405
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
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Fidelity Investments On-Campus Recruiting
10/20/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 404
Visit Crusader Connections to learn more about and apply for opportunities...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/20/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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Conference: Rethinking the Afropolitan
10/21/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
This conference, being held Oct. 19-21, "Rethinking the Afropolitan:...
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COES Dinner
10/23/2017
COES Professional Program & Prebusiness Program
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
Open to Campus Community Only
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Book Launch: Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits
10/23/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Help us commemorate the newly published Cambridge Encyclopedia...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite B/C - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is...
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Athlete Alumni Networking Night
10/24/2017
Center for Career Development
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Suite A - 4th Fl
The Holy Cross Career Crusaders Networking Night is a...
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Lecture: Charles Camosy Looks Beyond the Abortion Wars
10/24/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University,...
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Washington Semester Program Information Session
10/24/2017
Center for Interdisciplinary Studies
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 401
The Washington Semester Program is a highly competitive, semester-long...
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Open Enrollment Assistance
10/24/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
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7 C's of Social Change
10/31/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 320
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Alan Rosen on Jewish Religious Life and Practice During the Holocaust
11/1/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Alan Rosen, Kraft-Hiatt scholar-in-residence, will give a talk...
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Poetry Reading by Gabrielle Calvocoressi
11/2/2017
English
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Black Student Union Presents "Griot"
11/3/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center Ballroom & Dunn Rcpt
Open to the Public
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Open Enrollment Assistance
11/3/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
See More >>


Lecture: Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on Googling for Hate
11/6/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a former Google data scientist and author...
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Creating an Inclusive Campus: Skills and Practice
11/6/2017
Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 402(03)
This workshop will take diversity and inclusion from theory to...
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Race: The Power of an Illusion Part 3
11/10/2017
Office of Multicultural Education
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
*Episode III – “The House We Live In” focuses not...
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Matthew Hughey Lecture
11/13/2017
Africana Studies
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Open to the Public
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Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu (Event canceled)
11/15/2017
Asian Studies
Dinand Library Levis Browsing Room
Open to the Public
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Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/15/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
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"I Can't Remember What I Just Read!"
11/16/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 406(07)
Learn strategies to focus your attention and get more out of the...
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Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/16/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
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Conference: Religion, Protest, and Social Upheaval
11/17/2017
McFarland Center for Religion
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
The recent proliferation of social, political, and economic protest...
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Open Enrollment Assistance
11/21/2017
Human Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 410 - Computer Lab
Open to Campus Community Only
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Study Smarter, Not Harder!
11/28/2017
Academic Services and Learning Resources
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 408(09)
Why is it so hard to remember what you just heard in lecture or...
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Lecture: Quayshawn Spencer on a Radical Solution to the Race Problem
12/1/2017
Philosophy
Carol and Park B. Smith Hall Rehm Lib
Quayshawn Spencer, assistant professor of philosophy at the University...
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See All