By Samuel Merlin
Culture and social surroundings have impacts on all aspects of life—especially food.
The interplay between these seemingly unconnected areas became overwhelmingly fascinating to professor Hal Fried and myself.
We decided to pursue a project to research and examine these exact issues in the communities where the current Minerva Fellows are active.
Working in partnership with Union College’s Minerva Fellows, I will travel to Ecuador, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, India and Cambodia to spend time with the fellows in each country and learn about the role of food and culture in each respective community.
Moving from country to country over the next five months, I will be researching how food is impacted by its surroundings in these various developing communities.
With firsthand food knowledge, I hope to draw conclusions as to the challenges that face Minerva Fellows and their organizations in their attempts to create positive change and development in their respective communities.
We will examine what types of food people eat, how it is prepared, in what settings people eat and who people eat with.
We hope to dig deeper to learn what challenges individuals and if there are differences between urban and rural communities, along with other sociocultural factors.
We hope to gain an understanding of the culture of food not only from country to country, but also from community to community.
With strong culinary passions, we hope to use food as a medium to interact with locals in their respective communities to gain further insight into their daily lives, values and practices.
Using local markets, restaurants and other community staples, we hope to make friendships with individuals, letting them be our guides into their communities.
The end goal of this five-month project is to publish a book detailing the experiences of the local people in each country.
Through this focus on food, we hope to mirror the challenges that face the Minerva Fellows and the NGOs for which they work.
The book will be complete with short stories, country-wide culinary analysis, countless photos and a few handpicked recipes from each country.
All proceeds from this project will be re-invested into the Minerva Fellowship Program and its volunteer organizations.