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  • what defines your identity, your age, your gender, your job.

  • All of these define our identity and weaken, define ourselves that way or have other people's define us that way.

  • But how many of us define our identity?

  • Realize our identity through the food that we but we'd like you to.

  • We would like you to consider is to create and share your personal culinary identity.

  • A ze French lawyer and politician, Brilliance of on has famously quoted, Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you who you are.

  • So how do we define ourselves?

  • What components go into that concept of self?

  • And so also, how do we use food?

  • Thio Identify ourselves.

  • And to what extent does our understanding of the food that we consume the ways that we prepare food and the rituals of consuming the food, define who we are and also extend into our understanding of ourselves and other people.

  • As a Fulbright scholar to the United Kingdom in 2009 I attempted to answer some of these questions.

  • Now I wasn't there specifically to study food culture.

  • I was there to teach literature, language and media studies, but because I had been raised in a household of foodies and because I had read voraciously from food writers and I had read cookbooks and because I had travelled a fair bit around the world, I worked in the restaurant culture for nine years.

  • Thes were questions that were engaging and entertaining to me.

  • And so, through the Fulbright experience, I thought, Why not use that as a means off understanding individuals?

  • The Fulbright program was established in 1946 by the U.

  • S Congress as a means to promote and improve cultural relations and cultural diplomacy and cultural competence.

  • And so I felt, what better way to do that than an understanding of food culture?

  • And so even though I had asked these questions for years, it was through my orientation in Washington, D.

  • C.

  • Where I started really developing an understanding off what food culture might be and what actually culture could be.

  • And so I learned a framework that for me waas one of those prisons.

  • It was deep and it was profound, and it was the iceberg concept of culture.

  • This was developed for the first time in 1970 by anthropologist Edward Hall, and what he claimed is that most of what we see as a tourist is above the surface.

  • We can travel to New Orleans, for example, and we could perhaps eat some crawfish.

  • Been years there.

  • We might experience a celebration like Mardi Gras.

  • We can listen to the music, but until we actually start talking to people and developing those relationships with people, then we're never really going to delve beneath the surface off this iceberg.

  • So let's just play this out a little bit.

  • If on the surface of the culture I have things like cooking and literature and classical music and fine arts gonna take those and we're gonna explore together the deeper implications of what this might mean.

  • So food and cooking.

  • We have all sorts of things that are primarily out of awareness things that arm or implicit things that arm or emotional for us.

  • So notions of modesty, relationships, toe animals, patterns of decision making, concept of cleanliness.

  • But we're gonna talk about contextual conversational patterns for just a moment here because again, if you're trying to build relationships that starts with actually talking to people and so one of the things that I have learned I have followed the advice of the late, great chef and, I believe humanitarian Anthony Bourdain, who used his platform as a chef to travel around the world to develop relationships with people and to really try to blend some of those cultural differences that we feel could be so divisive.

  • So we have to talk to people.

  • That's the first part of this so contextual conversational patterns.

  • Now, when I first moved to England, I went down to London because I wanted to experience more of a cosmopolitan area than the small region where I lived.

  • And so when I travel, I follow Anthony Bourdain's advice, and that is where ever you go talk to the locals.

  • The best place to do that is you probably are not going to do that city alone at a table.

  • And so for those of us who are 21 older, the best place to do that is by going and sitting and having your dinner probably up at the bar so you could talk to the servers better.

  • You can talk to the bartender.

  • You can get a sense of what the community is like, and you can probably also talk to the locals a little bit more effectively that way.

  • And so I've done this.

  • And I did this when I travelled to Ireland when I traveled to Spain when I traveled even to Morocco and I found some lovely people and had wonderful pie, A in Spain and Taj genes in Morocco and some authentic food and cultural experiences.

  • But when I tried to do this in London, I was met with a rather cool reception.

  • And so I talked to one of my friends who lived there, and he said, Nikki, why would you do something like that?

  • They probably think you're a prostitute or something, you know.

  • So fortunately, that wasn't the entire cultural experience there.

  • But for me, the iceberg concept of culture was profound.

  • Now, how many of you have been on a first date?

  • Good.

  • Okay, how awkward can some of those first dates be?

  • I worked in the restaurant industry for years, and I saw a whole lot of awkward match dot com dates.

  • E harmony dates.

  • It's just lunch dates where people pushed food around on their plates and you could hear the clinking of the silverware so completely awkward.

  • So as a server you're supposed to remove yourself from the experience, but often I felt compelled to give them subject matter and fodder for conversation.

  • It was the worst, and so I developed a lot of social and psychological insights that way.

  • But if we look at our cultural iceberg, those courtship rituals are definitely tied to food and something that is worth considering as you look at your own future, because what we imagine is that scene from Disney's Lady and the Tramp right where the two dogs air sitting at the Italian restaurant and the piece of spaghetti goes between.

  • This thing is so romantic with the music playing so spaghetti pasta shared meals.

  • So what is my cultural identity on my food identity?

  • It would be spaghetti.

  • It would be pasta, and not just because my mother's side of the family is from Italy, and I have really great memories from being in her kitchen.

  • But part of that is through my travels, I learned a lot about zero kilometer cooking.

  • I learned a lot about using fresh local ingredients about not buying into tourist trap e type of food by actually experiencing what was fresh and local at the time that I was visiting a country, so that was important.

  • However, as I continued my Fulbright experience, I learned about another framework that was really important to me as I was living abroad and my family was here around October, I became pretty lonely and in England on the East Coast got dark around four o'clock in the afternoon and so walking home from school, not quite understanding the educational system or the students or in Norfolk County, even some of the language on the dialect.

  • It was really difficult adjustment.

  • So they also taught us about something called the W curve of culture shock at the beginning of your experience, your super excited about travelling abroad, getting away from your own country, people and things that may have bothered you.

  • And then you descend deeper and you're at the bottom of the W.

  • And so it was around this time that my friend David, another Fulbright teacher with whom I I taught at the sixth Form college he had experienced the same emotions when he was teaching here in Florida, came from the UK, And so he knew that back in the States, I had worked for a restaurant where they served game meat.

  • And I loved that experience, and I loved the people there.

  • And he said, I know of a great restaurant where we can go and have a dinner and so is in a little town called Wyndham.

  • I had to take the train to get their walked past the graveyard smelled the autumn leaves.

  • I heard the bells clanging from an old monastery there, and so we sat, we had a meal.

  • And this picture is me actually having a good time in the middle of a really hard experience with my friend Emma, who joined us at that dinner.

  • So that connection, that personal connection was really important to me.

  • And it made me realize that this gift of hospitality, the importance of shared meals, was something that I was missing and something that I would definitely want to consider as I went back to the States.

  • And that is when I met Rory when I went back to the States.

  • So what is my culinary identity?

  • Well, contrary to what Nikki is suggesting, my culinary identity does extend beyond gin and olives.

  • My culinary identity was formed very early on by our family dinners at home.

  • Our family dinners were very rich in conversation, the content of which was very, very passionate.

  • When I say conversations, you could substitute the word debate, sometimes argumentation.

  • It depended on what the subject matter.

  • Waas.

  • But it was all a way that we could get together and communicate and grow to love each other even more so as I got older.

  • My conversations, my culinary conversation's, ended up moving on into a weekly dinner that I had with my mother and my father.

  • On Thursday nights, my dad would come pick me up at work.

  • Uh, at the end of the day, we would travel around for a few minutes, and then we would pick a restaurant and spend a couple hours trying to solve the world's problems.

  • Sunday night my mom would come over and we would prepare a dinner with each other again, filled with rich conversation that you can only really do when you have that kind of an intimate experience.

  • So in terms of when I was determining what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go from that's experience, I felt that I needed to expand out and create Maur of a uniform experience with individuals that were friends of mine.

  • For example, um, I grew a huge passion for the preparation and consumption of food.

  • One Monday, a friend of mine named Jeff, who is my next door neighbor, came knocking on my door.

  • He had just moved in, and he just wanted to introduce himself.

  • So he and I sat and talked for a while.

  • And unlike the first date experience where those initial conversations air very awkward, we had a very deep conversation because we both were very passionate about food, the preparation of food, the sharing of food.

  • And so we got into the inner sanctum of our personality is very quickly.

  • It was then that I decided, or during that conversation that he had devised me, that he was part of a farming co op, which is essentially, you pay a little bit of money.

  • You do a little bit of labor, and what you get is a big bag of produce on a weekly basis, depending on whatever's fresh.

  • So a week later, Jeff sent me a one sentence email that email read.

  • I've got a big bag of produce if you've got some boiling water, score some protein.

  • We can have a meal.

  • Exactly what we did.

  • He came over and we had another great meal in great conversation.

  • So we decided, You know, we want to share this with other people.

  • We want other people to be involved in this whole process.

  • So voila.

  • The Monday night Supper Club was born.

  • The Monday night supper club occurred roughly 48 Monday's a year over a six year period, which was a dinner at my house with the core group of 11 people that invariably would extend with that.

  • It was designed actually to extend, have other people join us in from week to from week to week.

  • These dinners were extremely valuable to all of us.

  • Some of the people were there to create food.

  • Some of the people were there just to consume food.

  • But all of us gathered for the love of food and friendship.

  • And so during those times, as I mentioned, people would come in from all over and they would would invite people and again, by design, we would invite people into our little dinner club.

  • Sometimes they were from the neighborhood.

  • Sometimes there was far away as Bulgaria, where one of the members had a friend that came in another time.

  • I was at a bar and talking to a gentleman who is from Jerusalem, and he and I spoke and we engaged him and invited him in.

  • And he is still a friend with that entire group today.

  • These powerful group, this powerful experience was something beyond what we had hoped it would be.

  • So, um, then I met Nikki.

  • Uh, Nikki, about five years into the Monday night supper club, came into my life when I met her at an event.

  • It was immediate cleared immediately clear that her foodie background and her desire and love and passion for food was such that she's a perfect fit.

  • Now we would have themes for each of these events.

  • Some of them would be obvious.

  • Like for holidays, we'd have a Christmas dinner or a Thanksgiving dinner.

  • One time we invited a rabbinical student from the Hebrew Union College to join us and share the Passover ceremony with us while we prepared a traditional Seder meal.

  • Sometimes we invented what the dinners would be or what the themes would be.

  • I would Google on a Monday.

  • What happened this day in history.

  • And it has it turned out on one of the Mondays.

  • Doctor Zeus was born that day, so we decided to create a green eggs and ham feed on another Monday, what we had done was Googled and found out that it was the anniversary of the last voyage of the Titanic.

  • And at that time, what we did when Nikki when she brought to the table, was the fact that the ambience became so much richer.

  • She brought all of her scholastic aptitude and all her decorative aptitude to the event and would create these wonderful men.

  • Use that to make that experience all the richer.

  • So one of my favorite experiences with the Supper club was creating a Robert Burns supper Scottish poet on DSO.

  • We talk about him a lot in class, and I had attended burned suppers for a while, and they are celebrated all over the world because burns is Scottish identity.

  • And so this is a combination of all of the concepts of culture.

  • On the surface.

  • You have music, you have literature, you have food, you have toasts.

  • And it was a very rich experience that I wanted to share on January 25th.

  • This was the first time that I wasn't just a consumer up food culture.

  • I actually had to prepare it.

  • So I bought all of the food for Rory.

  • Bottle of the food for it, based on my list.

  • Brought it into the kitchen and I looked at it.

  • It's like, What am I gonna do with this now?

  • I eat food.

  • I don't make food, I love it.

  • And so we worked together on this.

  • And so our friends recited poetry.

  • We ate food, they helped prepare it.

  • And I finally found myself as part of that food culture, that concept of hospitality that I really wanted to be part of.

  • And so it became bigger than what I thought it would be for me.

  • And so I thought, Well, if people want to understand their culinary identity, they can't always have a supper club.

  • And the can't always travel.

  • But at least in the classroom, I can help students understand their culinary identity just a little bit better.

  • And so what Rory and I did together is he came into my classroom to speak, and he spoke passionately about his own food experiences.

  • And then what we did with that is I encourage students to write their own food.

  • Memoirs was a fan of Ruth Rachel, who was the former editor of Gourmet magazine, and she would always link a recipe with a specific emotional moment in her life.

  • Good times, hard times.

  • And I wanted the students to find a pivotal moment and do the same thing.

  • Now what we got from this was very interesting.

  • One student spoke with his grandfather, who had escaped from Albania, and brought a yogurt strain with him.

  • In this escape, we drank a yogurt drink made from that strain of yogurt, and it was profound a watch and interviewing.

  • His grandfather, also another student, wrote me years later and said that during the time that she worked on this food memoir, she found that the time she spent with her grandfather was critical because she got to know him at a deeper level.

  • And at the time that she was writing me, he had passed.

  • And so she was grateful for the opportunity to connect with her culture and felt as though through food she understood the world just a little bit better, and what grew organically within the Monday Night Supper Club was the same thing that I fell in love with.

  • With those family dinners at home, we only had two rules.

  • One you weren't allowed to offend anybody and to everybody had a voice.

  • Everybody had a platform to speak and share themselves very personally.

  • And between the Monday Night Supper Club and Nicky's food memoir project, we realized that people learn so much more about themselves and each other when they create a culinary identity.

  • So much of what is our identity is out of our control, our age or gender, our national heritage.

  • But your culinary identity is completely in your control.

  • Decide for yourself, search your own iceberg and determine what is it about my cut my background that I'm passionate about to create my own culinary identity.

  • Then, once you've done that, share your culinary identity, share it with friends, share it with family shared with people you don't even know and then consume their culinary identity because if they show you and you know what they eat, you truly live and know who they are.

what defines your identity, your age, your gender, your job.

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B1 identity culinary supper culture food culture experience

Spoken Dish: Finding Culture, Identity, and Voice | Nikki Wilson & Rory Flynn | TEDxMasonHighSchool

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/28
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