As Michael Pollan states in his book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, choice of food “determines to a considerable extent what kind of creature we are.” Food is a an integral part of human life, in fact, it is an essential part of human survival. So much of our lives are connected to food in ways we oftentimes aren’t even cognizant of. A meal is oftentimes not memorable simply for what was eaten but rather the company surrounding it.
The aim of my 20% project was to construct an autobiography through food. As the title should imply, this was to be a gastrography. This involved me taking pictures of meals I ate over the course of approximately two months. I uploaded these to a blog and began drafting posts, something about the pictures as autobiography. I had originally planned to blog weekly but early on I noticed that my posts tended to ramble and that they lacked a coherent theme which I felt detracted from their autobiographical purpose. As I began perusing through my notes however, I noticed that a larger narrative arch had begun to emerge: the end of life as a college student. The more I thought about it, the food that I was eating began to embody emotions I was feeling about graduation or friends that I would soon leave behind. The theme of embodiment is all over my project. The meals (some but not all) embody not only emotions I felt about graduating but people. places, and experiences which shaped my identity.
Well the writing was done gradually I saved my entries as drafts instead of posting them outright to the blog. Thus, as my writing has progressed I have edited and re-edited the posts as I saw fit. I suppose that this brings to light the issue of Authority and Authenticity but also Authorship and the Historical Moment. I can assure you that all of the things about which I have written really did occur. I also promise that I wasn’t taking pictures of other people’s meals. In re-writing posts, I wasn’t fabricating events but rather fleshing out themes which fit into the larger historical moment the autobiography aimed to address, namely my graduation. Furthermore, the fact that I wasn’t often writing from memory is an issue that should be addressed. Because I was taking notes the significance of the food itself was never hard to recall but some of the events surrounding the meal were. I don’t think that this was a problem. In fact, I felt that it made my project more authentic because I was focusing on the larger, more important recollections I had rather than superficial ones. Please check out A Gastrography of Me for yourself.
I wanted to note one more thing that became an integral part of my project, especially once I realized that I was going to be posting blog entries weekly: my notebook. It was pocket sized so I carried it everywhere with me. A lot of the notes are jibberish but it helped me to pull out the larger themes of important meals and record my thoughts as they occurred to me. Here’s some pictures of that.
Although I didn’t use Pollan as a real source, I still quoted it above so here’s the citation:
The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.