College Essay by KA, 2010

My taste buds help to define my world.  Food occupies a central place in my life. More than an essential ingredient for existence, it has become a lens through which I learn and evolve.  I have always been enthusiastic about exploring different foods – from tiramisu to smelts.  However, this passion extends to a world beyond the confines of a plate.  My love and understanding of food teaches me about the world, my community, and myself.

Living in our fast paced world, it is often difficult to take time, slow down, and think about our needs.  Food offers me the opportunity to pause, check in with myself, and understand my mood.  A great day is tomato and buffalo mozzarella with balsamic vinegar drizzled on top.  Contemplating what I want to eat, gathering the ingredients, and preparing them, gives me a break and fresh perspective.

A chef’s point of view comes across in every bite.  Each dish is altered not only by it’s own unique selection of ingredients, but also by their arrangement.  Take duck: did the chef choose to cut a breast into medallions and drizzle it with a merlot reduction sauce, or did she give you a hunk of leg to eat with your hands?  Each semi-circle of well-crafted tapeanade exemplifies my admiration for things that are done well, take time, are creative, and display hard work.  I strive for these qualities in myself: whether in my schoolwork, theatre company, equestrian activities, or other day-to-day tasks.

Through food, in particular goat cheese, I learned to try new things.  For fifteen years, I absolutely detested goat cheese.  Then, I ran into an omelet predicament.  Cheddar cheese was overpowering the rest of the fillings in my father’s elaborate Sunday morning creations.  He suggested goat cheese as a solution.  I decided to approach this ingredient again with a positive attitude.  Amazingly, little by little, I start to enjoy it, and now, it is one of my all-time favorite cheeses, perfect with morning eggs.  If you want something strongly enough, it is entirely possible to attain it.

Tuna taught me to consider multiple points of view.  It happened last winter at an Italian seafood restaurant.  I usually don’t like fish.  But being an explorer, I set out on an adventure and ordered tuna.  To my surprise, I immediately fell in love.  Sesame encrusted with a sweet but tangy taste.  Food is especially enticing when a dish transforms an ingredient that you normally dislike into a marvelous meal.  I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t like fish – but that in the past, I hadn’t enjoyed the chef’s perspective on the fish.  Before you develop a firm opinion on something, it’s valuable to look at it various ways.  Thanks to tuna fish, I try to tolerate and appreciate different perspectives.

In addition to providing personal satisfaction and life philosophies, food has helped me stay connected to the community of people around me.   It keeps my family united through our ever-changing lives.  Until seventh grade, I lived in a rural Vermont town of 900 people.  Dinnertime was always my favorite part of the day.  No TV dinners for us.  In fact, we didn’t even have a TV.  We all sat down for a home-cooked meal every night.  Even if I hadn’t seen my Dad all day and my brother was playing baseball until 5:00 p.m., I could always rely on dinner being a family affair.

Suddenly, we were living in Manhattan.  I went from a K-8 school with a total of 51 students to a New York City public middle school.  I was afraid that in addition to all the other changes, our home cooked meals would soon become take-out meals.  However, after the over-exploitation of sushi, Chinese, and Indian delivery we reverted to home cooking.  During our take-out phase, meals were more rushed and frantic.  When we returned to food prepared with more care, family debates over politics, movies, post-modernism, and philosophers were once again a frequent visitor at our dining room table.

Eating is a communal experience that has never failed to bring our family together, even at the busiest, most stressful times.  In the broader community, food provides a link to people of differing cultures and languages.  Potluck dinners at school or in the neighborhood bring people together who might not otherwise relate – the brownies and jiggle Jell-O provide everyone there with a common experience.  A perfect crème brulee requires no words or explanation to share and enjoy.

When I was younger I took for granted that my family’s approach to food was an intrinsic extension of our lifestyle: my mother boycotted most things mainstream, including fast food.  My father was into holistic health, so we ate organic whenever possible.  We cared about the environment, so we composted in Vermont, and moved in to a sustainable green building in New York, and always tried to buy locally grown food.

During middle school I became aware that many people in my own city and most people on the planet do not have an equal opportunity to pick how, where, what, or even when they eat.  Having the luxury to chose is something I value very seriously, so I try to educate myself about making choices – like buying sustainably harvested products and not wasting food – that will benefit not only me, but the greater world around me.

With each passing meal, I cultivate lessons to apply to the rest of my life: the more energy you put into creating something, the less likely you are to waste or neglect it; every individual component is essential to the whole; take risks and dream; the choices you make shape not only your world, but impact others far beyond what you can know. Different tastes and textures open my mind to fresh and interesting ingredients that continue to influence who I am.

K.A.

Class of 2010

College Essay by K. A.

 

 

 

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