Food Market in Italy
Name: Grace Mitchell
Major: Art History
Where the project will take place: Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus
One sentence description of project: My project will examine WHAT people are eating across Europe today (namely, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus), and WHY people eat the way they do, through staying in the homes of ordinary families through Servas.
When grant is to be used (month/year) and approximate duration of project (in weeks): May-July 2007, 8 weeks
Note: A grant recipient may be required to repay a portion of his/her grant if the trip is terminated early. The Dean Rusk Program staff retains the authority to determine the sum of such a reimbursement. This does not apply to cases in which early termination results from developments beyond the grant recipient’s control.
Total amount project is expected to cost: $4,343
Amount requested from the Dean Rusk International Studies Program: $3,758
(Total amount of project – personal funds and other grants = amount requested)
Have you received any previous grants from the Dean Rusk Program?
If yes: When? How much? For what trip?
Please explain all other potential or actual sources of funding for this project (including other grants, personal savings, family contribution, etc.).
I will supplement any grant for Dean Rusk with money from my personal savings
What effect would lack of a Dean Rusk grant or an amount less than requested have on your travel plans?
I have a limited amount of money to contribute to my travel plans, most of which I earned working last summer. I have set aside most of this money to pay off college loans upon graduation. Dependent on how much Dean Rusk is willing to assist, I may or may not be able to proceed with my plans. A grant below $2,000 will prevent the project from happening.
Have you had previous experience abroad? If so, please describe briefly.
List your involvement with the Dean Rusk International Studies Program and/or other international activities on campus:
With PS Student-Run Restaurant, I have collaborated with many international groups on campus, including:
• Asian Cultural Awareness Association
• Davidson African Students Association
• Davidson International Association
• Muslim Students Association
Please provide a budget for your project. Use as much detail as possible.
Note:The Dean Rusk Program will not provide funds for the purchase of technological items that will have a useful life beyond your trip abroad. For example, you may not use Dean Rusk grant funds to purchase cameras or tape recorders. Do not include these items in your project budget. If you use grant funds to purchase items of this nature, Davidson College will either take possession of those items or ask you to pay back a sum equal to the purchase price. If you have questions about whether or not a particular item falls into this category, ask the Dean Rusk Program staff before you submit your proposal.
*Airfare (round-trip ticket from large US city [Washington or New York, wherever is cheapest; I am unlikely to find an inexpensive ticket from my hometown of Raleigh] to Madrid) $700 (appx.)
*Food (56 days at $36/day; recommended food budget by Rick Steves) $2016 *Lodgings/Accommodations (5 nights, $20/night; for hostel stays in rare cases for which no Servas hosts are available) $100
*Travel Bus Cost (to travel to New York or Washington) $80 (appx.) 2 month-long, 2nd class, Consecutive-day Eurail Pass $942
*Personal Expenses Reserve money (recommended emergency/incidental from Dean Rusk) $500.00, Servas membership $85.00
Total Trip Cost $4,443 (Subtract) Personal expenses -$585 total: $3,838
Total Amount Requested from Dean Rusk: $3,838
Please attach a description of your proposed project and how a grant would be used. Explain in as much detail as possible what you plan to do, why you want to do it, and what you think the project will allow you to contribute to the Davidson community.
There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk. - MFK Fisher
Why is food seemingly so important for some cultures, but for others not a central part of their lives? Is it more a social phenomenon, based on nationally drawn boundaries? Or a product of our modern times, a symptom of the world in which people often easily snatch a bag of Doritos or a Powerbar (not even recognizable foods!)? Perhaps it is dependent upon individual households. If that were the case, then why do I enjoy spending hours planning and cooking dinners for my family, while my brother troops downstairs, marches into the kitchen, sees that I am cooking dinner, and reaches into the freezer for frozen buffalo wings?
My father has deemed me a “food snob.” I had to explain to him in fact, no, I am not a food snob. First of all, I am far too ignorant to be considered a food snob. I have not dined at fancy five star restaurants. I do not shop at gourmet boutiques. I frequently read about food items of which I have never before heard, reminding me of my limited knowledge. Secondly, as I told my father, there is quite a difference between being a “food snob” and simply appreciating and wanting to eat good food. Peter Scholliers writes in his book Food, Drink and Identity about the concept of “incorporation,” meaning that because food travels from outside of a person to the inside, the nature of a person is touched by the food that he or she consumes (8). And so, discrimination in what I eat stems not from food snobbery or pickiness, but the awareness that what I am eating in fact constitutes who I am—the recent American media obsession with trans-fats, obesity and the “organic” food craze goes to show that, indeed, you are what you eat. If what a person eats effectively becomes a part of the consumer’s identity, then I think it would be in the diner’s best interest to know what is in a particular food item. This curiosity has led me to want to explore a region of the world where people, at least historically, value and take interest in good food with high quality, fresh, local, and often simple ingredients. These elements do not necessarily yield gourmet food, but rather, “good food.” I hope to experience and investigate such “good food” on my journey. I do not plan to explore the five star Michelin restaurants of Europe; I plan to examine the food of local people.
I had initially planned to study one subject in depth, namely, cheeses and cheese-making in countries all over Europe. But I realized that this would inhibit me from exploring native cultural jewels of food production, such as the making of balsamic vinegar in the Modena region of Italy. So while this proposal may seem to be a quite a bit jumbled in the areas which I am trying to tackle, it is unified by a singular purpose: to examine WHAT Europeans are eating today, and WHY they eat the way they do. I will do this by studying family dining habits, city markets, specialty shops, museums, and local farms in both cities and rural areas across Europe. Questions I will tackle specifically include:
• What types of food are people eating across Europe today? Specifically, do many Europeans eat according to a whole foods diet, or do they cave in to the ubiquitous amount of processed foods as do most Americans?
• Why are people eating the way they do: socioeconomic factors? Culinary history? The bustling modern world? Urban versus rural location?
• Is food more of a ritual across Europe than in the United States today, and what does it mean for food to be experienced as ritualistic in the first place?
• Do Europeans in various countries view food as identity? • How does alcohol consumption and the view of alcohol consumption in relation to food vary from country to country, and especially, how does it vary from the United States?
• How is vegetarianism viewed in Europe? (As a vegetarian myself, I shall experience this firsthand.)
• To what degree is food seen as simply a means of sustenance, versus an enjoyable and sociable experience?
• What other factors across cultures determine these viewpoints? i.e., do the French and American businessman who grab a quick breakfast on the fly have more in common than in difference? Or does the French businessman treat food in a dramatically different way than we do?
Europe. It does sound rather unoriginal, exploring a region where people often spend extravagant sums of money to vacation on food tours, or to take cooking classes in, say, Italy. I must reiterate that this is not the experience that I am attempting to recreate. I chose Europe, on one hand, because I have never been abroad, and I feel that if I explored any other region of the world, I would find myself longing to be in Europe. Moreover, although all regions of the world have incredible cuisine, Europe is indeed well renown for its culinary history. I will also examine how food—especially European food—plays a cultural role in why tourists and travelers go to Europe, and how this sometimes changes things beyond recognition. For example, can “fettucini alfredo” actually be ordered in Italy?
I have not elected to tour all of Europe, but instead a select few countries that are stereotypically the “home” of traditional cuisine—Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, as well as a visit to Cyprus. Among other things, I will immerse myself in the intersection between modern “food” (Doritos, Twinkies, etc.) and the traditional European culture. This experience will enlighten and expose how Americanized forms of food have spread and/or have been resisted by “Old Europe.”
If I had intended for this travel to be a vacation, I would not plan to embark solo on this trip. I am not afraid of traveling solo; I have already done so for extended times, although never abroad. I sometimes feel that after spending several summers “alone” (without previously known acquaintances), I may have a more rewarding experience if I traveled with a friend with whom I could return to the same environment and share memories. However, I aware that this is a new kind of solo experience for me, which is likely to provide many benefits and opportunities for self-growth that I have yet to discover. In the end, I may still wish that I had had a traveling companion, but traveling solo will allow me to interact and meet people in a manner unique to solo travelers.
Exploring vegetarianism in Europe will be an interesting endeavor. As a vegetarian, it may be difficult for me to enter homes and refuse to eat meat. One of the reasons that I do not eat meat in the United States is the horrific meat production process. However, if I were staying on a local farm where the animals were raised and slaughtered (whether it be in the United States or in Europe), I wonder if I would have less of an aversion to eating that meat, particularly if it involved not creating an inconvenient situation for my hosts. This sort of personal change and challenge is thus not incidental to my trip and project, but an inherent aspect of it. I will be curious to see how I react in such a situation, and if my view of meat changes throughout the course of my journey.
As co-president of PS Student-Run Restaurant here at Davidson, I sometimes find it difficult that I have such a limited knowledge about culinary experiences around the world. This proposed journey will endow me with knowledge that will enable me to better contribute to and run PS. Not only will I learn about the mores of various cultures and cuisine which I can share with fellow students, but I also plan to compile something very concrete: I plan to keep record of each meal that have in each family’s home, and to compile a recipe book upon my return. This final product will be invaluable to myself as well as to PS, which is always eager to use authentic recipes.
My extra-curricular interests as well as academic endeavors reflect my passion for culinary pursuits. This current semester, I am enrolled in David Brown’s CHE 103, “Chemistry of Food and Drink,” in hopes of gaining a general scientific background of food and diet, which would assist me in my culinary endeavors as well as increase my exposure to different types of “food knowledge” (meaning, I am now learning about the scientific, versus only cultural, aspects of food). This class is providing me with a solid base of information that will supplement my European travels.
WEEK 1 Saturday May 26 or Sunday May 27 – Saturday June 2 Depart US: Sunday May 27 Arrive in Madrid/Barcelona Spain: Madrid, Valencia, Basque Region
WEEK 2 Sunday June 3 – Saturday June 9 Spain continued/France: Paris, Languedoc, Provence, Brittany
WEEK 3 Sunday June 10 – Saturday June 16 France continued
WEEK 4 Sunday June 17 – Saturday June 23 France continued/Italy: Florence & Tuscany, Rome & Latium, Modena & Emilia-Romagna
WEEK 5 Sunday June 24 – Saturday June 30 Italy continued
WEEK 6 Sunday July 1 – Saturday July 7 Italy continued/Greece: Athens, Etetria & Evia, Sparta & Peloponnese
WEEK 7 Sunday July 8 – Sunday July 14 Greece continued
WEEK 8 Sunday July 15 – Saturday July 21 Cyprus
My plan is to fly into Madrid. As I travel across southern Europe, I will stay in the homes of local families, rather than in hostels, in order to experience the everyday culinary experiences of locals. I will do this through an organization called Servas. According to the United States Servas website,
“Servas is purposeful travel. Travelers and hosts are united by their desire to help build world peace, goodwill and mutual understanding by participating in visits with individuals and families of diverse cultures and backgrounds. During a typical visit, usually lasting two nights and three days, a traveler participates in the daily lives of their host: running errands, discussing social concerns, cooking a meal, visiting a school or lending a hand in a workplace.”
Such a program is perfect for my travel goals and wholly feasible. Countries that I will visit, and the number of hosts in each country, include: France, 1194 hosts Greece, 14 hosts Italy, 1700 hosts Spain, 478 hosts.
I anticipate that some families will garner great pleasure from cooking, while others, products of a harried modern life, will place preparing a nice meal at the bottom of their list of priorities. I will have the opportunity to cook with these families, dine with these families, grocery shop with these families. I will encounter families living in both rural and urban areas, families with children and families without. This diverse experience will enable me to compare the different eating habits of many different types of people.
In addition to experiencing everyday tasks with families, I will visit food-oriented museums and culinary sites of local interest. Museums will allow me to learn about food of particular local importance, and other sites will allow me to experience the food culture as a local. For example, I will visit local markets of various cities. As recommended by Matt Gross in his article on Barcelona in the New York Times, I shall arrive early at La Boqueria, as well as markets in other cities, to observe the busy work of the market from the “vendor’s-eye view” as the only tourist. Later in the morning, I can experience the market at its full capacity with locals and tourists alike. Below is a sampling of some of the local sites I have compiled:
FRANCE Paris Shops/stores
• Place de Madeleine (best chocolates & confections in Paris)
• Poilane bakery
• La Maison du Chocolate (workshop of Jacque Genin)
• Jean-Paul Herin: one of Paris’ finest chocolate shops
• Alleose (the only Parisian cheese maker to own his own cheese-aging cellar in Paris’ underground) Montpelier (Provence)
• Agropolis (Museum). Gives guided tours in English for 4E. This museum follows the history, geography, and socio-cultural background of food. Plouescat (Brittany)
• Miellerie de la Cote de Legendes, Prat Bian, Plouescat Weekly tours on Fridays (honey). Call as time approaches. Salt Marshes (Brittany)
• Terre de Sel; guided tours of salt marshes. Call as time approaches for hours and tours in English.
ITALY Florence (Tuscany)
• Consorzio Produttor Aceto Balsamico (an easy train ride from Florence) I have received an email from them; I simply need to call them as the time approaches to arrange a tour. Modena (Emilia-Romagna)
• Mercato Coperto Albinelli (a local market). Rome (Latium)
• Moriondo & Gariglio (oldest chocolate boutique in Rome). Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Regiano Contact as time approaches them regarding tours to cheese-makers (there are four places—each lasts 3 hours in the morning, contact 15 days in advance).
GREECE Sparta (Peloponnese)
• Museum of the Olive and Greek Olive Oil (recommended by Dr. Toumazou)
• Dr. Toumazou has a friend with whom he recommends that I contact; I am waiting for her contact information. If I do not feel that this part of the journey will be worth my time upon hearing from her, then I shall simply extend each of the other countries by a few days.
These are various points of interest that I have found in several countries. I have kept my list limited because I would rather hear from the families with whom I am staying which are the key local culinary “gems” to visit. I would like to visit the local food market at which the locals actually shop, instead of the one that tourists visit.
I have also not established a set itinerary because I would like to leave my schedule open for flexibility. Typical Servas stays last two nights and three days, but may last longer upon invitation. Additionally, I would like to leave my schedule open to any suggestions that my hosts may have. If I am staying at a home in Paris, and they recommend to me a visit to a dairy farm in the south of France, I want to have the option to make that trip. I have tentatively given myself a week and a half for each country, which gives me time to visit the points of interest that I have indicated, as well as plenty of freedom to explore recommendations by my hosts.
Moreover, composing an exact itinerary at this point is not possible. Once I apply and am approved by Servas, I will then receive a list of the host families in each countries. As the dates approach, I will contact homes about my tentative arrival time. Travel, like a well-prepared meal, requires a good measure of flexibility.
Because I do not need money for room and board everyday, I find it necessary to request money for my plane ticket and train pass. I will search for the cheapest ticket from the United States, traveling by bus if necessary to yield a cheaper cost, as it is unlikely that a ticket from Raleigh (my hometown) will be very cheap. I plan to fly into Spain, and am very flexible into which city I arrive. I have chosen Spain as my arrival city because then I can move a smooth east to west across Europe. I am asking a minimal budget for each day, to cover food costs as well as museum entry fees, but not board because Servas will provide free lodging.