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Top > Outbound from Komaba > Global Praxis | Short-term International Program > Report Detail > 2015S_005_Agriculture and Community Haruka Ishi (LI)

Agriculture and Community
Haruka Ishi (LI)

I don’t hate eating. If anything, I would say that I like it. But I really hate eating things that don’t taste good, and if that is the only thing available, I would rather not eat at all. I was raised in an environment where being able to eat good food was taken for granted, because I was born in modern-day Japan where food is abundant, and have never had to experience going hungry. However, what does good food really mean? Humans have to eat to survive, so shouldn’t any food be considered good food? But no, taste is subjective and each person’s taste buds react differently, identifying different tastes as “good.” My tongue is ridiculously picky, much pickier than most people, and if something isn’t really delicious then I refuse to eat it. Human beings’ sense of taste is a mystery. I find that I have tired of my own intense fussiness.

Fortunately, I like Italian food, even with my picky tongue. I love good food almost too much, and I am more interested in food than the average person. I often wonder what other people from other cultures are eating, how they produce that food and how they live. How is what they eat different from the food that I know, and then again how is it similar? I wanted to visit a foreign country and use my own five senses to really experience that culture’s food, from production to the dinner table. I departed for Italy to satiate my hunger, expecting the new discoveries and fresh surprises that come from visiting a foreign country. 

First off I should mention that not all the Italian food we ate suited my palate, and to be completely honest, even compared with Italian food in Japan, most of the food we ate seemed…average. Although when I consider my normal picky eating habits I realize that I should have expected this. However, I was able to experience something greater than simply tasting different foods. With everything that I ate, I felt Italian peoples’ love for their home and their high standards for local foods.
 
I learned more on this trip than I can fit on this page, but for now I will focus on three main aspects of the trip. The first is food production, the second is those who provide food and cuisine to others and the third is those who enjoy that food or cuisine.

First off, the experience of actually visiting sites of food production was a valuable one which I could not have experienced had I not gone on this trip with the university. In Parma, we visited a Parmigiano-Reggiano factory and a prosciutto factory. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and prosciutto are both produced in only a few select factories that still use traditional production methods which make use of Parma’s natural climate. The craftsmanship that goes into production is important, and it takes more than 30 years of training before a craftsman can start his own business. Also, by staying at an agricultural tourism lodge which raised cattle I was able to experience living on a farm that produced the milk used in cheese production. On top of that, we visited an agricultural tourism center which oversaw agricultural land close to the city and other social agricultural sites and there were able to see of various aspects of Italian agriculture.

Secondly, we visited places where Italian people actually go, rather than just going to tourist spots, and I found this experience very interesting. We saw markets in Torino and Bologna. These markets were the kitchens of Italy, overflowing with the energy of those actually living there. We also stayed in five different areas in northern Italy and enjoyed lunch and dinner at local restaurants. Wherever we ate, I could feel the warmth and comfort of food made in traditional methods, using the local foods of that regions. From this experience we were able to feel the regional flavors of Italian cuisine.

Finally, we learned two new things about those who consume and enjoy Italian food. First, we learned about a way of thinking which associates a sort of spirituality with slow food. We visited The University of Gastronomic Sciences, which was founded by Slow Food International, an organization which promotes positive attitudes about food around the world. There we participated in a Piedmont cuisine cooking class and a taste experiment, and listened to a lecture on the principles of and education provided at The University of Gastronomic Sciences. I admired the enthusiasm and meticulousness with which people regarded food. The perception of and ideology associated with food which we learned about at the University of Gastronomic Sciences is only one aspect of a bigger picture. However, it is a seed that may lead to us dealing with food in a more positive, proactive way. We gained another piece of valuable information while eating at local restaurants. We noticed how people were enjoying food by taking time to share meals with close friends and family over good conversation, which emphasized the importance of food in the everyday lives of Italian people. From this I learned not getting caught up in our busy lives and taking time to really enjoy food while we eat it, which is something that we have to do every day, can sometimes give us a sense of peace.
 
I didn’t just learn about food on this trip. While I watched people of different races, who speak in a language different from mine while bustling about in their daily lives, I was able to successfully appreciate the “life” and “culture” of a different place. Also, I met various people and was able to speak with them. My dealings with these people helped give even greater depth to what I learned in Italy. For example, through exchanges with the students at Milano University, I learned about the differences between our two cultures and had a chance to rethink my views about my own country of Japan. Also, I learned new things about Italy from Mr. Tominaga’ talk at the Milano Japanese Consulate. On top of that, the experience of discussing and sharing opinions with Professor Osawa and the other members of our group was stimulating because I was able to view my own thoughts and opinions in a new light. I would like to thank Professor Osawa and the other members of our group. After 11 days together, visiting tourist spots and sharing meals together, I regretted that we had to part.

Being in Italy, seeing a different gastronomic culture, using my own five senses to learn and sense cultural differences, as well as glimpsing the lives of various peoples in a new environment invoked in me a new academic interest. Even more than that, I was able to rethink what it means to “eat,” or in other words, what it means “to live.” I will use this experience to become a more global person, who uses their global perspective to interact with a wide range of other cultures and foods in a proactive way.

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