Cooking Up Critical Reflections in the ‘Global Food Politics’ Course
Students in the ‘Global Food Politics’ course ended their second term with a feast of food, culture, and critical reflection. For the course group assignment, students were asked to plan, shop for, prepare, and share a dish or a meal with the class on 24 March, the final session of the term.
Each group of 6-7 students was given a budget of €30, with the instruction: 'As you plan your dish(es), consider health, environment, social equity, culture, waste, and cost. Try to produce an ‘ethical’ dish/meal, defined as your group sees fit.'
The results were delicious.
One group formed with students from East Africa, who presented foodstuffs, food traditions, and food-related cultural meanings that are shared across their respective home countries. They came dressed for the party, and brought music to accompany the meal.
Another group was comprised of students from Ghana, who delighted the class with food and drink for their home, complete with explanations of the associated uses and meanings of food and food combinations (for example, we learned what to eat to make male children!).
A group of students from mostly Latin American countries decided to 'go local'. They prepared two lasagnas – one cheese/meat and one vegan – made with ingredients from the 'farmers’ market' near the Binnenhof. With a focus on using organic/biological foods produced as close to The Hague as possible, their ingredients were more costly and less accessible than the same would be at a conventional grocery store.
Another group went local in a different way; they produced a 'healthy' take on a Dutch staple, the beloved bitterballen. This group of students from various countries created their own recipe for meatless bitterballen, pan-fried in small amount of oil, and made with organic/biological ingredients from a biological grocery store chain. These balls, perhaps surprisingly, were a class favourite.
Finally, an innovative group took up the challenge of addressing food waste. In the days before the assignment was due, they collected 'waste' or 'excess' food from vendors at the Open Market and at a farmers’ market near ISS. Using only €6 of their budget, they produced more than 10 dishes to share with the class of more than 30 people. They decided to let the ingredients available to them lead the cooking plan, rather than first deciding what to cook and then buying ingredients. The result was a lot of innovation, a lot of fun, and a lot of new dishes and flavors.
After eating, each student was asked to write a short essay on the project, responding to a pointed critical reflection question about 'ethical' consumerism, food availability and access, and/or food politics more broadly.
In the end, we learned much and ate even more.