Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead they should embark together on a journey down the water. Through an active reciprocal exchange, teaching can strengthen learning how to learn.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
― Anthony Bourdain
On Friday, June 8, 2018, 7:30 am my sister text me and told me the heartbreaking news that Anthony Bourdain died. Cause of death, apparent suicide. Tears filled my eyes quickly, I think I even heard myself blurt out, “no!” I tried to process this information and to also continue normally for the morning. It was just so difficult to process that this just happened.
I have been admiring Anthony Bourdain for quite some years as he has inspired me in my visions and look at the traditions of people, places and food. He was passionate, had a sense of curiosity, crazy, didn’t take on anyone’s bullshit. His wit and sarcasm always landed just right. I liked that he was true and raw about what he saw and experienced. There are so many different formats of travel and food shows, that give us the highlights, the brighter and prettier details of different countries, a very ‘tourist’ approach to the rest of the world. But as we all know; the world is truthfully not like that. Mr. Bourdain wanted us to see the essence of traditions, inviting us into the streets, bars, restaurants, kitchens and back yards of the locals. What is one true condition that brings people together? Food! And as he said in so many of his shows, it’s not only about the food, it’s the welcome into people’s homes, sitting at the table together to enjoy a meal together. Tears would and still do fill my eyes when I see and witness the beauty of sitting and talking together over a meal. Everything else is remote, but the presence of people together is heartwarming.
Of course, this reminds me of the many times that Sunday dinners occurred in our Italian homes in Toronto. My grandmother brought it all together! In the smallest of houses in downtown Toronto she would hold the biggest feasts every Sunday. Certain smells today will remind me of those crazy, loud, and loving times! Even on Sundays when she didn’t feel like cooking, she would send one of us off to the local pizzeria to bring back pizzas for everyone.
What did I learn from these family engagements? I learned that it is important to accept people for who they are, we are all different yet share commonalities, be passionate for what you believe in and stand your ground on it. The public conversation is more polarized than ever. As people retreat to the left or the right, propped up by the echo chamber that is our social news feed, the joy and connection of debate seems to be a thing of the past. Don’t be afraid to disagree, learn to dispute, question often and challenge even more. These were little life lessons that were shared in many ways and as I became an adult, wife, and parent, I began to really understand the meaning of these life lessons. I can write about the hardship times and life of my immigrant family but this is a blog post about food and education.
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates’, food, for me, has always been an adventure” – Anthony Bourdain (Anthony’s classic memoir Kitchen Confidential can be found here)
In my life as an educator, I came across the Reggio Emilia approach in the early 1990’s. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the schools in Reggio Emilia and the relationships shared among educators, families, and children. With few resources back then, I began my research on the founder, Loris Malaguzzi (insert link). I was intrigued by his passion for children and learning. He reminded me so much of my own grandfather and the admiration he had for families was even more interesting.
Mr. Malaguzzi was also a very passionate, outspoken, political educator and philosopher. His research in education became even more important to him when he rode his bike into a village that had been destroyed after the war; watching women selling off left over army tanks to purchase bricks to build a new school for their children. They wanted a place where all were welcomed and that their children could build a hopeful future. They had nothing left but their dignity and pride to move ahead. Loris was totally inspired by this work that he began to help them and to build his teaching and learning on the value of traditions, bringing the community together to build a school for
everyone. The rest is history.
As we learn more about the world of Reggio Emilia approach, I related to the importance of food education with young children. Of course, this became the next part of this long journey…. the languages of food.
It was through food that I can teach others to believe that relationships, tradition, community, collaboration all matter. It’s not just about eating food, its the act of being together, food is just the essence that is the commonality of bringing us all together.
In this journey of life, often we encounter bumps. People will test you with their criticism, their discomfort of your work, or perhaps fear that what you are doing is not according to ‘rules’ or ‘expectations’. Every day, in my work, I follow teachers, food blogs, chefs who inspire me, they are all so unique in what they do, from crazy organized chaos to simple and clean. For me, I’m a little of everything, I love to hear others talk about their journeys, their findings through education and food. I have met some amazing people along the way, learning more about the why’s and what’s about community. I am a passionate and strong learner of young children. I believe that we all hold competence, capability, and curiosity to move, we need to keep moving, when we stop, so has learning and being.
So, I encourage you to continue to question, speak out on your passions, build a community of knowing that we all come from different places, we have different religions, traditions, values, but we are all people. We don’t have to agree with everyone, we don’t even like each other, but we do need to live in some harmonious way.
I guess this is why the works of Loris Malaguzzi and Anthony Bourdain have made significant impacts in my life as an educator, mentor, wife, mother, sister, and daughter. I have connected to be inspired by Loris Malaguzzi because he questioned and challenged everything!
Anthony Bourdain was invited into my home, into my life, without ever meeting him. I guess this why it’s been very hard to understand and believe that he is really gone. I still can’t. Watching his shows every week gave me a sense of belonging, comfort, and trust.
Every time I visit the schools of Reggio Emilia, I find myself being ‘home’ as well. It’s the ease of knowing that even through government assessments, ministry checklists, that we are slowly making changes, slowly moving in some direction, I’m not sure which way. But I am hopeful that we are finding comfort in our own schools. Education goes beyond the four walls, it is life and we should embrace all aspects of life, welcoming the thoughts and theories of children into our classrooms to build further investigations and research.
In every infant-toddler and preschool in Reggio Emilia, that fact that there is a kitchen has always conveyed a strong meaning, both pedagogical and cultural. The kitchen is a place for listening to the families and their habits, as well as for orientation toward the community, where lunchtime becomes a space and context of relationships and encounters with the world.
It is also a place for exchanging ideas, and establishing resolutions Conversation often taken place around the table during meal time in a way that it doesn’t take place in any other setting. Maybe the act of sharing the same food, in some subtle way reminds us that we share a common tradition, a common need for nourishment and a common comfort. This satisfaction that we experience with a meal, that gives us a common ground upon which to stand while we debate other things. It is in moments of conviviality, that the quality of conversations become warm and empathic, it’s a time of togetherness. Something for which we can never have enough.