Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Final Reflections

 "Coming out of high school I longed for a way to turn my love of food into a career, but knew that I didn’t want to be confined to a kitchen day and night. I settled on a career in journalism instead, hoping that perhaps I someday could integrate it with my passion for food. That opportunity came two years ago when UNH launched its dual major program in EcoGastronomy. Since then, my involvement with the budding program has had a profound effect on my education and on the way I look at the world, particularly in regards to food, of course, but more generally as well.
I have worked to synthesize my two majors of journalism and EcoGastronomy in such a way that my writing may inspire and empower others to reconsider the food they consume. The effect of such efforts is hardly quantifiable, but I would hope that my writing has helped to connect someone—anyone—with a local producer, or caused them to think more deeply when roaming the produce department. As mentioned before, my involvement with, and understanding of, EcoGastronomy has evolved markedly in time. For a more thorough understanding of just what I mean, I’ve included examples of each stage in this sort of personal-professional development. I began my food writing trajectory as something of an undereducated gourmand, critiquing Seacoast restaurants with plenty of zeal, but few qualifications to do so. From there my food writing took something of a militant turn, and I began churning out moralistic manifestoes on sourcing, preparing, and eating food. It is empowering, of course, to unleash such ideas on the world, even if that world is but a Durham microcosm. I don’t regret these writings, of course, though I now consider them somewhat overzealous and perhaps a tad elitist.
More recently, I’ve sought to connect readers with the artisanal producers and business
owners that, through their dedication to high quality food and responsible practices, are slowly changing the way we eat. Last spring I set out to dispel some commonly held myths about raw milk and shared my findings with the UNH community via The New Hampshire. Last summer, while working with New Hampshire Magazine, I was assigned an article about the state’s dozen or so craft breweries. I visited each, interviewed the brew masters, and sat down to compose a brief history of craft brewing in New Hampshire. When the article was published I began getting feedback from a number of readers who had never realized all the state had to offer. I realized then that my weeks of research and interviews hadn’t merely disappeared into the ether; they had created a link between readers and high-quality, artisan food products. Writing like this may seem more innocuous than my earlier Pollan-esque treatises, but I believe them to be more accessible and less alienating than some of my other work, and thereby I think they are probably more powerful and more effective.
In essence, my experience with the EcoGastronomy dual major has afforded me countless opportunities to become more involved with, and aware of, my food system on both an academic and practical level, an advantageous combination that I believe is far too rare in higher education today. Perhaps most exciting, however, is the fact that our much-needed food revolution – though growing rapidly – is still in its beginning stages, meaning that now more than ever our food system is in need of forward-thinking individuals to build upon the progress made by others. To that I say count me in." 
Matt Benham, UNH graduate Fall 2010

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