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EcoGastronomy: stuff your face, not the planet

EcoGastronomy: stuff your face, not the planet

Increasingly, we can’t just enjoy food any more without considering its effect on the environment. Tucking into a juicy steak is, for growing numbers of people, no longer simply an exercise in indulgence devoid of concern for the meat’s provenance, whether it was relatively happy and humanely slaughtered, and how much methane it farted out when it was alive.

For forward-thinking folks (who due to the agricultural Armageddon we are living through are also backwards-thinking folks), the pleasure of eating well is now twofold: one for the good food and one for having done as much as can be done to limit its effect on the environment. Whether low-environmental-impact food tastes better than its intensively farmed version can be debated, but even if it tastes no better at all then it seems daft to keep producing the version that causes damage to the environment when the ‘same thing’ can be had in a more sustainable way. It’s a bit like a cartoon currently doing the rounds of the internet in which a character at a climate conference asks, “What if it’s all a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”

We have forgotten that intensive farming is bad because for most of us it’s all we have ever known. But rewind a hundred years and everything was eco. People mostly grew, prepared and ate organic food locally. Such practices are now considered ‘extremist’ by mainstream folks, when all bodies like the Slow Food Movement and the Soil Association are doing is trying to get back to the ways their great-grandparents grew food. The old folks were being ‘eco’ without even knowing it.

The fact that the Slow Food Movement is necessary should give us pause. If we are now struggling to get back to what our recent ancestors did because it was all there was, this could be a sign that our food production and distribution practices have run out of control in order to supply supermarket shoppers who wouldn’t know a seasonal vegetable if it jumped out of its single-use plastic packaging and headbutted them.

Anyone who broadly agrees with the above and is interested in getting involved in helping governments and businesses to create sustainable food practices ought to check out the Ecogastronomy program at the University of New Hampshire. The EcoGastronomy dual major provides students with a diverse educational experience in sustainable agriculture, hospitality management and nutrition. The program has three central tenets: interdisciplinary, international and experiential knowledge.

From growing and preparing food to getting first-hand experience in international food cultures and issues of food security, the program provides students with an integrated academic experience.

Students will learn about these issues in class and develop the skills they need by working in the field growing food and in the kitchen preparing food. All of this experience culminates in a final capstone project before graduation.

Classes students have to look forward to include:

Introduction to EcoGastronomy

Sustainable and Organic Food Production

Nutrition in Health and Well Being

Introduction to Food and Beverage Management

Senior EcoGastronomy Capstone

All EcoGastronomy students are required to spend a semester abroad as part of their studies. Students will travel to Ascoli Piceno, Italy or Dijon, France to learn about food production and sustainability issues unique to the respective regions.

Students will take a full course load (in English) while touring local food production sites specializing in wine, olive oil, pasta, cheese and much more. This immersive semester abroad will help students to experience new foods, new ways of producing food and even enable them to acquire a new language.