When I went to summer camp as a child, I would eat white bread for two weeks straight. For breakfast, I would mix up the routine with Frosted Flakes or Cheerios, but generally I stuck to processed grains. No weird casseroles, no wings, though potatoes would be acceptable on occasion.
I am considerably more flexible now, but with certain, albeit illogical, restrictions. I will not eat meat that resembles itself: no fish with heads, no beef tongues, no octopus tendrils. Nor will I indulge in deli meats, hot dogs, or other heavily processed meat-like products. don't want to know how they are made, but if I did, I am sure I would be even more averse to them. I can't stand to eat baby animals either; thinking too much about veal makes the injustice of eating animals is too fresh. Somehow it feels less cruel to eat an adult animal. At least it had a chance to have a (hopefully carefree) childhood!
We have made eating complicated. The food pyramid I knew as a child has morphed into a plate meant for a child. There are more fad diets than there probably ever have been before. There is more organic food than there used to be, though now we at least now which foods it makes sense to purchase the organic version of and which foods it makes little difference. Unless we simply want to support organic farmers, even if doing so costs us more. There lies the complicated question of the interplay of our values and our budgets. Given that we have the privilege to care and make decisions based on our values, how much time should we invest in figuring out the best way to eat? And how strictly should we stick to our decisions?
And now on to the actual topic ...
The Netflix docu-series Chef's Table. I know, I know! I don't even like fancy, expensive food. It usually makes me nervous (because I don't know what it is) or guilty (if it costs a lot). I generally appreciate being able to look at a food and know what it is, with the obvious exception of meat, in which case I prefer that it not evoke the semblance of the animal it once was. That said, the music, cinematography, narrative structure, and of course the chefs make the series exceptional.
The past two nights we have watched the show: first, we saw the episode with Massimo, of the Italian restaurant Osteria Francescana; second, we saw the episode with Dan Barber of Blue Hill restaurant and farm. These iconoclast chefs revel in their ingredients. They understand the essence of their raw material--food. They teach their employees their methods and philosophies. Their restaurants do not simply treat patrons to one expensive, delicious meal; instead, they transport them (and even distant viewers) to a place in which food preparation constitutes an exalted art form, and eating, ephemeral bliss. Yet the ecstasy of visiting these microcosms should not fade, but swell. As people visit Osteria Francescana and Blue Hill, they glimpse all that food can be, and (the chefs hope) integrate the respective philosophy of food into their daily lives. The chefs show us that you can indeed find sustainably sourced ingredients, eat them in small portions, and savor every bite. But even more, they show us a new, radical ways we can approach eating.
With their relentless drive and exacting standards, they are trying to revolutionize the way we eat. They employ the best methods they can find and use the best ingredients available--whether reinventing authentic Italian, or building a sustainable farm-to-table ecosystem--and make ideals a reality. With boundless creativity, they transgress the boundaries of what other people think is realistic and even appropriate.
Call me crazy, but this is how I'd like to build a school someday: Using the most rigorous research, with the most promising conditions, and a crew of like-minded teachers, I'd like to create a place where students' curiosity swells, rather than shrinks, where kids are given choices, respect, independence, and boundaries. This would be a place that worked with families, served kids who learn differently, and taught thinking, writing, and research in all subjects.
School would start when teenagers are actually awake, teachers would be compensated fairly and would always be learning, and there would be no standardized tests. Students would take courses in rhetoric, reading, cognitive science, psychology, architecture, communication, narrative, politics, the court systems, the environment, and more. We would we beholden to nobody, yet bound by a common drive to provide the very best education possible.
This is my wildly idealistic vision.