Learning to Eat: A College Education
When I was a broke college student, I would often sustain myself on what I liked to call “the pizza circuit”. Every evening after classes I would check the campus events calendar for guest lectures, movie screenings, panel discussions, awareness events, affinity group meetings. You could say that I was an active mind interested in taking advantage of the many resources and opportunities of Haverford College, or you could say that I was looking for a couple of free slices of greasy cheesy deliciousness to tide me over until my midnight bowl of frosted mini-wheats.
It was by way of this scavenging lifestyle that I discovered the EHaus community. Someone tipped me off that every Thursday there was a steaming pot of lentils or some other hot homemade specialty at this environmental co-op on campus, and all I had to do was show up with my bowl and spoon. It was like a student soup kitchen, except all vegetarian and no disposable dishes or silverware. As I became a Thursday night regular at EHaus, I became friends with many of the chefs and residents. I began to learn what these veggie hippies sitting on the floor cross-legged eating kale were all about. They were busy students like myself, without the time or money to cook every night. They, like myself, enjoyed eating with good company and having drinks and conversation with the meal. They made pizza too but they hand-rolled the dough and loaded it up with fresh seasonal vegetables and creative sauces.
I lived at the EHaus in my final year at Haverford, and shared many meals, ideas, and work projects there. I never did go vegetarian but I learned to cook vegetables to feed an army. I learned how big is a bushel of apples and how many sweet sweet apple crumbles can you make from it. I learned to compost, and to freeze or jar my produce so that it lasts longer. My whole relationship with my food changed from a nightly challenge to take the edge off the tummy grumble into an opportunity to be with friends, do creative projects, and nourish my body.
The best part of it was that by being more intentional with our food, we were also forming habits that made us more sustainable citizens of the world. I’ll still take a home cooked vegetable meal over Styrofoam takeout any day. It’s not just about the environment as some external issue that makes us guilty and needs our help. Food is where the environment enters our body and sustains our health.
All this is to say that community meals are a brilliant way to bring folks to environmentalism, and a college campus is a place that is ripe for it with tons of hungry students, forming habits that will last their lifetimes. EHaus is still doing their thing providing students a cooperative living and eating space at Haverford, and they have joined up with other groups on campus to participate in Food Day next Wednesday, October 24, 2012, with a meal, a film screening, and discussion about sustainable agriculture to feed the world.
Food Day coincides with Campus Sustainability Day, and there are events going on across campuses nationwide. They are starting a national conversation on preparing students for climate change, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to learn to eat. The keynote speakers will be broadcasted live online on the 24th so tune in if you can, or join a regional conversation. Find an event at your school, tell a student-friend about them, or have your own community meal.
Photos by Rachel Kobasa