Increase Your Learning Experience by Expanding Your Food Culture

Olivia Blackwell is a pre-dietetics student that wants to share ways to increase your learning experience by expanding your food culture. Check out her advice below!

Can you think of a fun memory you have involving food? More than likely, you can think of several. For me, one of my favorite food-related memories is picking fresh strawberries out of the garden with my mother and then proceeding to eat half of the bowl before even making it to the house to wash and slice them for dinner. Now, every time I eat a strawberry, I can’t help but think of my mom’s little strawberry patch in my childhood home (while simultaneously wishing that grocery store strawberries tasted half as good as freshly picked ones).

These memories that we have about food are more than just fun things to reminisce on, they affect the decisions we make about food even today. Food is more than simply something we put in our mouths when we are hungry or a pile of various nutrients that makes our bodies run, and our choices about food are far from random. They are highly representative of our history, our culture and the people around us. Even something as seemingly insignificant as a McDonald’s cheeseburger can carry cultural meaning. Maybe that greasy burger was something special that you only ever ate with your father, or maybe the highlight of your week as a child was getting to go smell those burgers being made while you climbed on the McDonald’s Play Place. Or, maybe it’s just simply that you were raised in a pretty typical American household, and as a result of that, you really love red meat and fried things. Either way, there’s no such thing as a ‘random food choice.’ Like it or not, your food choices are a part of you.

So, why am I telling you these things? Well, if there’s only one thing you remember about this article, I hope it’s this: food is so much more than just the sum of its parts. It is something to be experienced, savored and enjoyed. You have full permission to eat the foods that mean something to you, even if they aren’t the “healthiest” things out there. (All things in moderation, of course). Sit with those foods awhile. Truly taste them. Think about what makes them special to you. You might even learn something about yourself in the process.

Secondly, realize that your food culture isn’t doomed to be what it’s always been. Just because you were raised in a family that ate frozen pizza in front of the TV every night doesn’t mean that you have to do that, too. Does that mean you can’t ever pop a personal pan in the oven while binge-watching Netflix? Absolutely not. But, you don’t have to do that every night. You can build a new culture around the food in your life. Go try a new Thai restaurant with some friends. Get really inspired by Giada De Laurentiis and make some kind of cheesy pasta dish. Finally, work up the courage to ask that person out and take them on an awesome picnic, complete with BLT’s and homemade pasta salad. Decide you finally want to try kale and Pinterest the heck out of it. Why? Because not only are these things fun and incredibly tasty, they change the way you relate to your food. It’s no longer just something to stuff into your mouth as you run to class or a way to keep your stomach from growling embarrassingly loud in your psych lecture (not that I would know), but it’s a way to relate to people, to feel not just full but also satisfied, and to express yourself. And I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like some awesome food memories in the making.

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