Today marks the last day of my favorite class ever: Food Journalism. Taught by James Beard nominee food critic Joseph “Joe” Bonwich, the class offers an in-depth discussion on food, food journalism, and restaurant reviews. Joe brought in various speakers like Gerard Craft of Pastaria to Veronica Baetje of Baetje Farms and took us to excursions off campus, like Companion Bakery and Stringbean Café, to help us learn first-hand how the food industry operates. The course is offered as a University College course, meaning it usually will not counts towards any distribution or major/minor credits, only electives. But like most UC courses, food journalism is more hands-on and real-world emphasized rather than listening to lectures taught by a teacher.
It’s obvious now that food is a pretty significant part of my life. Culturally, food is a big part of Korean culture, one of the few things that have remained pretty constant throughout the years. Korean history is definitely not all daisies and roses, but despite every hardship we have faced, we are really proud of our cuisine and the world-wide momentum it has recently picked up.
On the other hand, food is my family’s catalyst to explore a city. My parents and I don’t deal with hangriness (an emotion one feels when she/he is so hungry and they exude anger and often irritability) very well, so whenever we are hungry, we tend to stop at the nearest restaurant/ food stand that has the longest line or seems the most full. We plan our trips around famous restaurants, even taking a specific train that stops at some station in Germany to try the supposedly “best kebabs.”
Finally, food is something that my family gravitates towards. Naturally, my mom’s side of the family has always been good at food. My grandma used to knead the dough for 1000 mandus for my grandpa’s company workers in the winter time, and somehow, they’d all be perfect, showing no difference in appearance and taste. She made kimchi fresh every two days, something that is not easy especially when she had to grind the ginger and garlic on her own. She still ferments her own soybean paste every winter time, something that takes a lot of patience and close monitoring.
However, I never really thought of food as anything more than sustenance and something that I would truly explore until this year– all because of food journalism. Joe would teach us the craft behind foods, what makes something great. He told us about the story behind a restaurant, a specific dish. In New York, there is a craft brewery that specializes in combining weird ingredients to create revolutionary beer, one being truffle beer. The brewmaster is Jared Rouben, a graduate of WashU who went on to the Culinary Institute of America in New York where he discovered his obsession with combining familiar foods to unfamiliar ingredients. I hadn’t even realized how creative beer could be and how popular creative foods can be if done right. This opened up a new door for me as I realized that despite the infinite number of food combinations in the world, there are still many more that haven’t been explored.
I’m not a great cook, so I don’t expect myself to become some famous chef or cook one day. But this class made me realize something important and not relevant to food or cooking at all. Every speaker who came by our class started off doing something completely different from what they are doing now. Even Joe was pursuing a PhD in economics before he entered the food industry. Gerard Craft was a college dropout and former drug dealer who now runs multiple successful restaurants in St. Louis. He is known as the pioneer of the great St. Louis food scene. Molly Rockamann certainly did not think she was going to start a nonprofit in St. Louis that promotes sustainable farming and foods for underprivileged neighborhoods. Feast magazine editor and creator Catherine Neville graduated college with no job and no plan. Later, she started two big food magazines in St. Louis that have both elevated the once decrepit food scene.
Hearing all these people talking about their lives not going as planned is comforting to a college student who is overwhelmed with finding summer internships, getting good grades, not knowing what to pursue, and having to declare a major in less than a year. I want to major in economics and strategy and marketing for now, but who knows what I’ll end up doing a few years down the road? I think it’s important to be well-aware of what I want and what’s best for me. All these stories were inspiring in many ways, because they had something in common. Each person set off into the world with an open mind. Most of them had hit rock bottom and had only one way of moving on: up. It’s important to realize this and keep things in perspective. I often find myself stuck in that mindset and trying to maintain perfection, but I should also remind myself that a GPA is not to be indicative of my intelligence. Instead, it’s my actions and my tenacity and my craving to do more that reflects who I really am.