Students in Argiro Agelarakis' Food, Culture and Art class use food to connect to their heritage and each other.
Harvest festivals are common to most, if not all cultures, and in America both the Thanksgiving holiday and Adjunct Anthropology Professor Argiro Agelarakis’ classroom alike are all about food.
In Agelarakis’ scientific illustration classes, students usually create detailed drawings of animals, plants, bones and artifacts. But those taking her Food, Culture and Art course also learn about the importance of food to cultural identity. She describes it as a “cross-cultural study of food and its artistic expressions as mediums of communication.”
Cookbooks are a great way to share recipes within and beyond cultural boundaries, and Agelarakis’ students connect with their own and one another’s heritages by making and sharing cookbooks. Agelarakis uses the cookbooks as a way to reinforce scientific and anthropological contexts while giving her students an opportunity to share their work, and their family histories, in class presentations.
Serena Chapman, a student in Food, Culture and Art, has been exposed to traditional meals from all around the world thanks to her grandfather, who was a Foreign Service diplomat.
“He was born in India, and later lived in Germany, France, Iran and America, in addition to traveling to many other countries,” Chapman told the rest of the class. “Eating meals at my grandparents’ house often included dishes from the places they had lived.” Her cookbook included meals like Thai coconut shrimp and French beouf bourguignon, or beef burgundy.
Another student, Katelynn Kelly, said she grew up in Brooklyn surrounded by a spectrum of Jewish denominations.
“This cookbook is a way for me to reflect on my family, the food, those times, and most of all my grandma Bubby Gittel,” Kelly explained. Her beautifully illustrated book will teach you how to make kasha varnishkas, hamantaschen and Gittel’s homemade ice cream—a family recipe.
This assignment aimed to push students to reconnect with their cultural heritage and share what they found with their peers. Not only is there a potluck feast at the end of the semester, but now each student will be able to make these recipes themselves.
Food, Culture, and Art will be taught again in Spring 2017.
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