North Park University English Personal Narratives and Foodways Essay

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Essay 1: Personal Narratives & Foodways

 We’ve spent the first couple of weeks reading about—and discussing—food as it relates to identity and memory. For your first full-length essay, I would like for you to reflect on your own relationship with food, examining how your personal, familial, or cultural foodways play a role in your own identity.

“In social science foodways are the cultural, social and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food. Foodways often refers to the intersection of food in culture, traditions, and history” (from Wikipedia—a generally unreliable source). ?

There’s a lot to consider, here: what you eat, what you don’t eat, why you eat what you eat, what your family eats, how your family does or doesn’t participate in cultural traditions linked to food, how what you eat says something about your family structure/household make-up, how you connect with various members of your family through the practice of eating, etc.

You may choose to write about any of these topics—or none of them. 

Your essay should take the shape of a personal narrative; you are, in essence, telling a story. However, much like the essays we’ve read, your story must move beyond just telling us what happened; it must also begin to make sense of what the memory or experience you’ve chosen to write about means—in a larger sense. That is, as much as you are telling a story, you are also analyzing your own personal experience and attempting to draw some larger meaning from the story you tell. In other words, this can’t just be about your grandmother’s tamales. You have to do some critical reflection, asking yourself what those tamales symbolize to you? What do they mean to your family? How can we learn something about who you are through the narrative about making tamales? Why are you even writing about tamales, after all?

Rhetorical Considerations: Does southern fried chicken make you feel like home? Do you come from a multi-cultural family and, if so, is that represented in the cuisine you grew up on? Do you sit down with your family and have dinner at the table every night? Did you grow up on fast food and TV dinners? Were your school lunches different than all of your classmates’ lunches? Did your mom push you to eat healthy? Do you feel pressured to be thin? Are you vegan? Keep Kosher? Participate in religious fasts? Did you hunt with your father every winter?

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