Blog post: Through food!

Blog post by Dustin Petty, Bailey Scholars Program Academic Advisor.

Bailey scholars sharing food in the Bailey space. Photo courtesy of Dustin Petty.

The most frequent question I get from a student coming into the Bailey Space is, without fail, “is there anything to eat?”

And more often than not, the answer is “yes” – pizza from a meeting of the Bailey Community Council, soup from a community lunch, leftovers from a core course’s potluck, or homemade cookies that I bring in each Monday – we are a community that enjoys food.

In the earliest days of the Bailey Scholars Program, faculty and students hosted Wild Game Dinners.  With several folks enjoying hunting and fishing, they brought the meat they harvested and shared it with their more urban co-learners who hadn’t previously experienced wild game.  At some point, the Bailey Scholars Program (BSP) and food became so intertwined that someone added the words “through food” to the BSP Declaration that hung in the Bailey Space.

“Wednesday lunches were one of my favorite parts of Bailey,” said alumnus Dr. Michaela Teravest, now a faculty member in MSU’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  “It was an opportunity for informal discussions about anything a scholar wanted to discuss. As long as they provided the soup, people showed up.”

But these lunches were more than just free food and lively discussion.  They were an opportunity to share ideas and worldviews. I joined the BSP as an undergraduate shortly after the program was opened up to students of all majors.  Over the course of a year, the diversity of the program increased dramatically, not just the cultural backgrounds of its scholars but also their fields of study and interests.

“We held a Culture Dinner when I was student director,” said alumnus Stephanie Sleda, “with the idea that everyone would bring food or something to teach the community about their cultural identities.  It was such a success! Jackie shared Hmong traditions, Saeed brought an Arabic dish and dance, and Evelyn brought a French soup. Everyone brought food.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times, home cook and activist Julia Turschen speaks about the power of breaking bread with those you don’t know nor understand. “A few months ago,” wrote Turschen, “a fellow cookbook author asked me the last time I invited someone who doesn’t look like me over for a meal.  It’s a critical question we should be asking ourselves, because the most valuable tool in our kitchens isn’t found in any drawer or cupboard: it’s the table.”

Bailey has always provided the table and, more often than out, will bring the food.  I hope that in the next twenty years, scholars continue to clamor to it, not just for nourishment, but also to seek better understanding of the world around them.


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