And for its next course, Colby College is focusing on food

Danila Cannamela, a professor at Colby College, demonstrates making pasta for her lab class last year. Cannamela’s course, “Pastoral Cookbook,” was one of the reasons Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities chose “Food for Thought” as its theme for this academic year. Photo by Ben Wheeler

WATERVILLE — In her class last fall — titled “Pastoral Cookbook: Classic Recipes and New Cooking Techniques” — Colby Professor Danila Cannamela encouraged her students to consider a different approach to the concept of “pastoral.”

“We approached the pastoral as a recipe with four ingredients: root vegetables, milk, meat and honey,” Cannamela said of the lab course, which included hands-on cooking classes and visits to farms in the center of the country. Maine, and produced a “cookbook” of their findings.

“We played with goats, listened to the buzz of thousands of bees, and nibbled fruit straight from the vine,” reads part of the introduction to the cookbook that ends the class. “On farms, we slowed down: we couldn’t help but pay attention and appreciate the complex processes that bring us the food we eat every day.”

Cannamela, an assistant professor of Italian at Colby, called the course “one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a teacher,” adding that students also had the opportunity to learn about PFAS issues facing Maine farms and supply chain struggles. bogging down the entire food production system, among other agricultural concerns.

“I think the students realized how much complexity there is behind this facade of beauty and simplicity that we see in a rural landscape,” Cannamela said. “They became more aware of the state of agriculture around us.”

Students rolled and cut homemade pasta for Professor Danila Cannamela’s food-themed lab class last year. Photo by Ben Wheeler

Cannamela’s class was part of the reason the faculty at Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities chose “Food for Thought” for its theme this year, bringing food-related inquiries to 16 classes in areas ranging from anthropology and Spanish to religious studies. Past themes, chosen in part to be broad enough for all of the Centre’s different disciplines to find a way into the discussion, have included last year’s “Freedom and Captivity” and the academic year’s “Frontiers and Margins”. 2020-21.

Colleges and universities have become increasingly interested in food studies over the past two decades. Popular programs have sprung up at Boston University (Food and Food Studies), Oregon State University (Food in Culture and Social Justice), and Tufts University (Agriculture, Food and environment), to name a few.

Although the Colby theme does not lead to a degree in food studies, it does allow this year’s students to use the subject of food as a springboard for meaningful discussions.

“When we were reflecting last year,” said Chris Walker, assistant professor of English and associate director of the Center for the Arts and Humanities, “one of the things that concerned us was the importance of food, to both in terms of structuring our cultural experience, and allowing us to connect with each other, but also how this is an increasingly important environmental issue. Food is really an issue that connects individual experience and global trends and issues.

Professor Cannamela, left, checks fresh pasta as it cooks for his lab class. Photo by Ben Wheeler


“Food is such a rich theme,” acknowledged Center for the Arts and Humanities director Dean Allbritton. “It’s really about thinking about our relationship with food. The food we eat, whether we have access to food, indigenous communities and their relationship with food.

“Some courses offered this year address these issues and encourage students to move beyond simplistic definitions of food,” said Audrey Brunetaux, associate professor of French studies.

Brunetaux gave as an example her course this fall, “Matter for Thought: French Cuisine and Culinary Identities,” which she says “re-evaluates and critiques French cuisine and gastronomy through a decolonial lens to decenter the narrative on food and culinary traditions in France. .”

Beyond the courses, the Center organized a series of conferences, round tables and film screenings on food to highlight this year’s theme, such as a round table, open to the public, on “Food justice in Maine” at 7 p.m. Monday in the Kassman Hall. The roundtable will include perspectives from four Maine nonprofits: The Evening Sandwich Program; Coffee Stone Soup; Healthy Northern Kennebec; and Present! Maine.

Also free and open to the public: A screening of the film “What’s Cooking,” which explores Thanksgiving Day through the lens of four distinct families – Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish and African American – is scheduled for November 13 at the Maine Film Center , who regularly partners with Colby.


The Center has more events planned for later this month, and more food-themed assignments and curricular events are planned for the next semester, including an April campus visit from the vegan chef African American, food justice advocate and author Bryant Terry.

“Food means something different to each student,” Brunetaux said. “Some may think that food is an important way to bond within communities; some might see food as a political tool to address systemic injustices; others might see food as a catalyst for creativity and social justice.

Freshman Linh Tong said her class, “Investigating the History of the United States to 1865,” used this year’s theme to show how food helped shape the country and its people. inhabitants. “Food is not just a means of survival, food also has a lot of cultural value,” she said.

The class focused on particular food items here and there, like Native American fry bread, which Tong says has its roots in the European colonization of North America.

“The fried bread plays the role of food for the survivors, and they used it to survive during this time,” Tong added.

Colby teachers noted that this year’s food theme was also driven in part by the knowledge many of us have gained about dietary needs and issues during the pandemic.

“Food insecurity has increased during the pandemic,” Walker said. “We all missed getting together and eating together.”

“We are coming out of a time, in the pandemic and the lockdown, where a lot of us were thinking about food,” Allbritton said. “I remember trying to learn how to bake bread at the start of confinement. I think a lot of us think about how we access food and what happens when we don’t have the food we want or need.

“Right now, given the inflation problem, a lot of us are thinking about the cost of food every time we go to the grocery store or to a restaurant.”

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