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.

Related Information:

| More
Tags
Categories
Magazine, News, Philosophy

Comments are closed.

02/24/17 Religious Studies Professor Writes Letter to Trump Administration for Campaign
02/24/17 Holy Cross Offers Reflection Opportunities During the Season of Lent
02/23/17 Holy Cross Ranks Among Top Undergraduate Fulbright Scholarship Producers
02/23/17 Holy Cross Alumnus and Administrator Discusses College’s Mission and Priesthood
See All
See All
Featured Videos

See video
‘I LOVE HC’ Fundraising Challenge a Record-Breaking Success

Watch Video >
See video
Holy Cross Faculty Member Recognized for Contributions to Catholic Higher Education

Watch Video >
See video
Time-Lapse Video: 13 Inches of Snow Blanket Campus

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins ’63 Honored as Helmerich Distinguished Author, Reads Poetry on NPR

Watch Video >
See video
Video, Photo Gallery: Holy Cross Wishes You a Merry Christmas

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Holy Cross History Professor Featured in PBS Pearl Harbor Documentary

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Two-Time Heisman Candidate Gordie Lockbaum ’88 Featured by ESPN in ‘30 for 30 Short’

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Holy Cross Students are ‘More Engaged’

Watch Video >
See video
Video: Take a Look at Campus Life After the Sun Sets

Watch Video >
See video
Photo Gallery, Video: Class of 2020 Receives A Holy Cross Welcome on Move-In Day

Watch Video >
More

Summer OL Training
6/14/2017

See More >


Summer OL Training
6/13/2017

See More >


Summer OL Training
6/12/2017

See More >


SAM'S CLUB
6/8/2017

See More >


Summer OL Training
6/8/2017

See More >


Sexual Misconduct Policy Training
6/7/2017
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519
Henry M. Hogan Campus Center 519: Open to Campus Community OnlySee More >


Women's Forum Weekly Meeting
5/11/2017

See More >


MSO Advocate Program (Event canceled)
5/11/2017

See More >


AAC Luncheon
5/10/2017

See More >


Athletics
5/10/2017

See More >


Kimball Captains' Senior Send Off Dinner
5/9/2017

See More >


Women's Track and Field Banquet
5/9/2017

See More >


Dean's Spring Address
5/9/2017

See More >


Dean's Address
5/9/2017

See More >


Summer Internship Send Off Meeting
5/9/2017

See More >


Summer Internship Send Off Meeting
5/8/2017

See More >


Cinco de Mayo
5/5/2017

See More >


Emerging Scholarship Luncheon
5/5/2017

See More >


Women's Forum Weekly Meeting
5/4/2017

See More >

More Holy Cross in the News

02/24/17

Religious Studies Professor Writes Letter to Trump Administration for Campaign

Values and Voices

Tat-siong Benny Liew, the Class of 1956 Professor in New Testament Studies and professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, recently wrote a letter...

02/23/17

Holy Cross Ranks Among Top Undergraduate Fulbright Scholarship Producers

The Chronicle of Higher Education

According to data submitted by the Institute of International Education, the College of the Holy Cross ranks as one of the top undergraduate producers of the Fulbright...

02/23/17

‘How the Trump-Russia Election Controversy Only Makes Putin Stronger’

Fortune

After the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn, Cynthia Hooper, associate professor of history and director of Russian and Eastern European Studies at the...