After nearly a solid month of rejecting socialising, normal eating habits and even ignoring my own family when they came to stay in order to sit in my kitchen and pour over sticky notes, my obsessive studying paid off and I earned exam results I was extremely happy with. For me, ever the over-achiever who is oddly competitive with myself, that means the pressure is on for my final year, where the one big difference will be the dissertation. Now that dissertation advisors have been allocated and proposals approved, I feel 'safe' enough to begin what I'm hoping will turn into my summer project and double as a lighthearted strain of dissertation research. My dissertation, roughly, is going to investigate how writing about food becomes writing about the self. Having had a varying personal relationship with food, transforming myself from struggling with a borderline eating disorder into the ardent food lover I now am (albeit still with some body issues), the way people relate to something which, at the end of the day, simply keeps us alive has always fascinated me. Especially in today's world, where social media and popular culture pressure us to look certain ways and be in ultimate control of our bodies, while at the same time plastering Facebook feeds with videos of ridiculous cheese or chocolate covered indulgence foods, only to then make us feel bad with unattainable Instagram posts of avocado flowers and chia bowls. While I don't yet have specific texts or themes to focus on, I thought that starting with a personal study would be a valuable and enjoyable place to start getting in the right frame of mind, and I plan on using my blog as a vehicle to do so.
I want to know why, some days, we can look at ourselves in the mirror and as a result of what we see, evaluate everything that passes our lips not in terms of deliciousness and nutrition, but by measure of calories and self-loathing. At the same time, I personally find that when in life I have a lot on my plate, cooking and putting food on my actual plate becomes a kind of solace and escapism from everyday pressures. Furthermore, I believe that food is something that it is possible to have a deep rooted personal relationship with: some dishes or tastes can remind you of particular people or transport you back to a moment in time. Even the ceremony of eating can carry so much higher meaning, be that sitting down at a table with your family or relaxing in front of the T.V with a bowl of pasta, grabbing a rushed and unloved sandwich or taking the time to plan a meal. Chefs and restauranteurs view food as an expression of the self, and I think the same stands in my kitchen at home. So, my plan is that alongside relevant reading to see how literature presents the food-human relationship, I want to explore how my own food writing is about more than just knowing where to get the best burger or being able to cook a recipe. How and why does nourishment become about more than getting from day to day without starving? I would like to think that there is a reason, other than my greed, why I think about what I'm going to make for dinner as soon as I wake up.
While I'm not sure exactly what form this 'research' is going to take, I think I will still blog about the food I cook and eat in the main. For readers who do just want to know what I'm eating to either recreate it or go to that restaurant, don't worry, there will still be plenty of that. However, I'm going to try and dig a bit deeper, looking into my personal regard for food and why I started writing about it in the first place. Whether that takes the form of explaining the origins of my favourite foods in more detail or just making my writing a bit more reflective, we will see. I'm aiming to simply start considering why food means so much to me and has become such an oddly large part of the identity I ascribe myself. 'Food lover' means more to me that just enjoying the taste of things, and that is what I want to investigate. My thinking is that the format of my blog will provide adequate pressure to keep going, and hopefully some of you will find my summer project to be interesting reading. I am not expecting to come up with any ground breaking revelations about humankind, but even just actively engaging with the subject of food and the self will hopefully be useful.
I would love to hear from anyone who has a personal experience or opinion about what I'm going to try and do. Any theories on why you love or hate certain foods, or even what the ceremony of eating is to you would be really interesting, so please feel free to share them with me. I'm not setting a deadline for my next post, as I want to really think about how best to approach this new vein of writing, but any suggestions or questions people would find it interesting if I addressed would be appreciated. For now though, I am going to go and eat a fish finger sandwich for lunch, which I know will make me feel just like a child.