Playing with Your Food

By Marina Starkey

As a child, I always played with my food. Ok, so I still play with my food. There’s something about turning one thing into something else, maybe something better, toying with my strong kinesthetic senses, indulging my (possibly misguided) creativity, and seeing how flavors work together on the palate, on and off the plate. Maybe it’s gross, but maybe it’s important too, because it led me here.

When I tell people what I’m studying in grad school, the normal response goes something like, “You study astronomy? That’s awesome!” To which I respond, “No, gastronomy, with a ‘g’” only to be met with confused looks and a need to quickly explain my academic career. While home for Thanksgiving my own father called me a “gastroenterologist.” Not quite.

Gastronomy, a relatively new field of study concerning itself with how we, as humans, relate to food, perplexes many, and understandably so. When I applied to Boston University’s Gastronomy program, I barely knew what I was getting myself into. I was looking for direction or a peek into something I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be involved in the culinary world in one way or another: I wanted to play with my food. And although I’m only heading into my second semester in this program, it’s easy for me to say my education is much more than that.

My course of study includes a focus on food communications, which includes everything from writing to PR, marketing, and advertising. I’ve been lucky enough to have an internship in hospitality PR at 451 Marketing to supplement my education. But even though communications is my focus, my education through this program is full of history, sociology, science, and government policy, to name a few. Though I can’t be sure of the direction I’m headed towards, these experiences within different fields of the food studies world are extremely valuable. I came into this program hell-bent on becoming Alton Brown’s successor. That piece of me that wishes to indulge myself in food science is still very present, but I also wonder what a career doing PR for chefs and restaurants would be like, what it would mean to do advocacy work for food pantries, or how I would begin to start my own food business.

These considerations within any field of study are an essential part of one’s education. The Master’s in Gastronomy program at Boston University allows me to explore aspects of the food studies world of which I previously held no knowledge. It’s introducing me to hundreds of new ways to look at food. From the anthropological significance of certain kitchen objects to the philosophical and psychological beginnings of our personal palate, there are no limits on what’s possible. In its essence, this program teaches me new ways to see, to feel, to taste, and most importantly, to understand. It allows me to turn one passion into something else, toy with my senses, indulge my (well-guided) creativity, and have a better understanding of what works for me and what doesn’t. It teaches me all the new ways I can play with my food.