Sometimes My Students

Food Writing Class, 2012

In my non-cheese life, I carry cutting boards to work and dream up assignments like the one in the photo above: Record everything you eat for a week, then draw an arrow next to anything processed. This semester, I taught two sections of Food Writing, a class that explores everything from food memoirs and blogs to restaurant reviews and chef profiles. Along the way, we made pickles, devoted a day to food photography, studied seasonal ingredients, and went undercover to review a 3-course dinner at a local culinary school.

My students — both graduate and undergraduate — included a food-loving waiter, a health-concious body builder, and a pasta-making event planner. But for the most part, few of my students cooked. Some of them had never turned on an oven, and when they studied their eating habits they discovered a heavy diet of protein bars and Lean Cuisine frozen dinners (at least, for my undergrads).

So why did they want to take a Food Writing class? They watch the Food Network. They love food blogs. They socialize with their friends at restaurants. Only a handful were interested in cooking, at first. By the end of the semester, that changed. It was remarkable to see how a little education, some reflection, and a dose of the Wednesday New York Times Dining Section turned a group of curious eaters into culinary explorers.

Here’s a sample of their final projects. I post this as a tribute to their hard work:


My students inspire me to think about food in new ways. How does a stutter impact one’s taste? What’s a life on food stamps? Does the ability to cook really make a person more desirable in the Microwave Age? What will be lost now that recipe cards are obsolete? Will our grandchildren grow nostalgic over the food photos we post on Pinterest?

Sometimes my students surprise me. I’m grateful to them for giving me new thoughts to mull, new urls to tap. I hope you enjoy seeing what they’ve seeded.


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12 Responses to “Sometimes My Students”
  1. Earth and Fork says:

    I really miss this class and writing about food. I love seeing a whole bunch of students at SJU thinking about food and writing their takes….it’s inspiring.

    • tdarlington says:

      Dan, great to hear from you! I used your blog, Earth and Fork, as an example of a great blog that came out of the first class. Cheers!

  2. Kate says:

    Intrigued by the idea of keeping a food diary and seeing what processed items I’m eating. That’s one aspect of my cooking and eating that I don’t always think about.

  3. Lucy says:

    What a fantastic sounding course. As a new cheese blogger I’d love to do it- shame I’m in New Zealand! Great inspiration, thanks.

  4. This looks fantastic! Wish I could take the class. I don’t suppose you post the assignments online, as a sort of global correspondence food writing opportunity?

  5. Mim says:

    What a beautiful post. So great to hear about the changes in your students. I am wrapping up teaching English for the year, and am feeling a bit proud and strangely sentimental about how far my students have come.

  6. So here’s my question: when are you going to offer this class to the public? ‘Cause I would LOVE to take it. What cool assignments you give! What great work your students are doing! You should be very proud!

  7. Susan Sklepinski says:


    Saying recipe cards are obsolete is like saying books are obsolete, no? I am surprised at this statement. If being a relic means having three shelves of cookbooks and constantly adding to a recipe box, I am an old, worn object. I do frequent Epicurious and Smitten and Allrecipes, though. Love your writing. It sparkles, my dear.

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