I love food. I love eating food, cooking food, thinking and talking about food. I go to grocery stores for fun and wander the aisles; sometimes I need to buy something, but often I just go to look at all of the different kinds of food available. So, when I began to look for a summer job, I figured that I should start my search by looking for jobs involving food. The internship at the Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University (CKNU) looked like a great option; I could work with food and help people too! It doesn’t get much better than that.
Now as the summer draws to a close, I am happy to say that it far exceeded my expectations. And it wasn’t even so much about the food, or at least not directly. It was very much about the role food plays in our lives and in the lives of those for whom food is not readily available. My fascination with food before this summer was more about all of the flavors, colors, and textures, and how these could be combined endlessly to create delicious meals. Now, though, I have found that it is just as, or probably more, interesting to look at the social role of food. Eating is, of course, necessary to human survival, but it is also very much a social activity. Whether it’s a family dinner or friends meeting at a bar, food infiltrates most of our social activities.
I can’t help but see examples of this in the experiences I had delivering meals this summer. When delivering to some of our chattier clients it is easy to lose track of time as the conversation progresses from small talk about the weather to current events to things going on in that person’s life. Food brings people together. It is the food that brings me to each individual’s door and it is the food that brings them to answer the door. Two people who probably would have never come into contact with one another now see each other two or three times a week, brought together by the food that one needs and the other prepares. It’s not a family dinner, but it is a powerful social connection fostered through the exchange of food.
Whether the conversation with the client lasts a few seconds or several minutes, a connection is made and it is these connections that made my experience this summer more about the people receiving the food than the food itself. This internship was not the wonderful experience that it was because of the food I prepared – although making 600 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in one afternoon is quite a feat – but because of the people for whom the food was made.
As I begin my senior year at Northwestern it will be these thoughts that will guide me, hopefully, in my decision of what to do after I graduate. I was never really banking on turning my love of food into my career, but I think that working for an organization like CKNU is something that I could see myself doing in the future.
Erin Berger is a summer intern at The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern University. She is a rising senior at Northwestern University and she enjoys reading and spending time outside.