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  • Australian Journal of Adult Learning Volume 52, Number 3, November 2012

    Throw your napkin on the floor: Authenticity, culinary tourism, and a pedagogy of the senses

    Lisa Stowe and Dawn JohnstonUniversity of Calgary

    This article explores the educational objectives of a University of Calgary short-term travel study program (Food Culture in Spain 2011). A combination of secondary research and primary data collected through in-depth interviews with former program participants, as well as student reflective essays written in the field, shows that the sensory experience with food is an important pedagogical tool. Focusing on questions of intentionality, sensory learning, and the meaning of authenticity, we explore the complications inherent in a formal education program built around culinary tourism. We argue that by the end of the three-week program in Spain, students identify as informed culinary tourists who recognize the complexity of authenticity and understand how sensory experiences can inspire and motivate both a bodily and an intellectual understanding of food and their relationship with it.

  • Lisa Stowe and Dawn Johnston 461

    Introduction

    May13,2011.ItisDay5,andourgroupisinCordoba,twohourssouthofMadrid,tovisitanoldalamazara,anoliveoilpressinthecountryside,andtoexperiencetheArabicandMoorishinfluencesonthefoodcultureofthisregion.Wearestayinginasmallhotelinthemiddleoftheoldtown,acrossthestreetfromthetouristattractionthatmakesCordobafamous,theMezquita.Itsanearlyrisethismorningandevenatthishourwefindourselvesweavinginandoutofcrowdsoftourists.Wepasssouvenirshopsfilledwitht-shirtsandcolddrinks.Somestudentsstoptoperusethewaresandplanforareturnvisitlaterthatday,onlytohaveusshepherdthembackintoline,asthebusiswaitingandwecannotbelate.Wemakeourwayacrossthebridgeconnectingtheoldtowntothe newer section. The streets in the old town are too narrow for ourtourbustomanoeuvre,butthispopulartouristtownhasaccountedforthat,establishingatourbusparkingareaacrossthebridgewherethemanygroupsoftouristscanmeettheirguides.AsweboardourbustotheNuezdePradooliveoilpress,wepassatleastfiveotherbuses,filledtocapacitywithtourgroupsofvariousnationalitiesandages.Withinfiveminuteswepassanindustrialpark,clearthecityandaredrivingthroughtherollinghillsandorchardsofAndalucia.Veryfewcarscomethiswayandtheroadsarenarrow;atpointsitfeelsasifthebuswontbeabletomakethecurve.Ourgroupischatting,watchingthesceneryfromtheirwindows,andmakingplansforthedayahead.Andthenthesmellhits.Atfirstmoststudentsarentsurewhattheyaresmelling--intense,fruity,onlyvaguelyfamiliar.Butthenitdawnsonthem.Itsoliveoil.Morespecifically,itsthesmellofolivesgrowingontrees;somethingthatmostofthem,bornandbredinCanada,haveneversmelledintherawstate.Theyareshocked.Andcurious.Someask,Areolivesafruitoravegetable?Afruit.Theygrowontrees.Sooliveoilisafruitoil?Sortof.Dopeopledrinkit?Yes.Waituntilwegettotheoliveoilpress.Wellsee.Andsmell.Andtaste.

    ThesestudentswerethethirdgrouptovisittheNuezdePradoalamazarawithus.Since2007,wehavebeenco-teachingtheUniversityofCalgarysFoodCultureinSpaingroupstudyprogram.

  • 462 Throw your napkin on the floor

    Thisthree-weektravelstudyprogram,offeredeverysecondyear,engagesundergraduatestudentsininquiry-basedresearch,writing,andgrouppresentationsonglobalisation,culinarytourism,andthepopularpracticesoffoodproductionandconsumptioninSpain.Withagroupof27studentsandaprogramassistant,we,thetwoinstructors,travelfromwesternCanadatoSpain,wherewespendthreeweeksexploringthecountryconsideredbysometobethemodernculinarycapitalofEurope.

    Theprogramisintellectuallyintense,andencouragesstudentstothinkandfeeldifferentlyaboutfood;assustenance,asexpressionofcultureandregionalidentity,andasamodeofcommunication.Foremostinourminds,asteachers,isthecomplexitythatliesattheheartofculinarytourism,whichhasemergedasanenticingandprofitableleisureactivitythroughouttheworld.Culinarytourismoffersthepromiseofanauthenticengagementwithanotherculture;atthesametime,asmanyculinarytouristshaveseen,itseemstoencouragehostcountriestopackagetheirfoodandcultureintodesirableandpalatableexperiencesfortourists.Spainhasbeenextraordinarilysuccessfulonthisfront,establishingitselfwithinpopularmediaasaseriousdestinationforfoodies.Itisthesiteofmanywell-knownexperimentsineating:fromartisanproduction,tomoleculargastronomy,toMichelin-starredrestaurantsinoff-the-beaten-tracklocations.Italsohasentireneighbourhoodseventownsandvillageswhoseprincipleraison detre seemstobeanaggressivelymarketedtouristexperience.Byorganisingagroupstudyprogramaroundthevarious(andsometimecompeting)practicesoffoodandeatinginSpain,weendeavourtoexplorethediversityofSpainsfoodculture,alwaysquestioning,butjustasoften,embracing,thepleasuresandchallengesofourexperience.

    Ourprogram,whilequiteclearlyrepresentativeofaconstructed,formallearningexperience,alsomakesspaceforandencouragesinformalandincidentallearning,particularlyasinspiredbysensory

  • Lisa Stowe and Dawn Johnston 463

    experience.Itisnotourgoaltoromanticiseinformalorsensorylearning;rather,wewishtoacknowledgethatmanystudentsfeeldiscouraged,afteryearsofformaleducation,frompayingattentiontotheirsensoryexperiences.Thisromanticisationisdifficulttoavoid;asSwan(2012:59)suggests,Experience,particularlyinitsemotionalandbodilyrepresentationsissometimesissometimespresumedtobeun-mediatedandun-ideologicalasemotionsandbodiesareoftenthoughttobemorereal,morenaturalandmoretruethanrationalityorcognition.Throughassignments,lectures,anddiscussions,weencouragestudentstovaluesensorylearningwithoutdisproportionatelyprivilegingitovercognitivelearning;afterall,foodandeatingareintegrallyconnectedtothesenses.Wehopethatthatonitsbestdays,ourprogrammakesaspaceforstudentstoincorporatesensorylearningintotheirmoreformalacademicworkwithoutcreatingabinarybetweenthelivedandthestudiedorthesensoryandthecognitive.

    Inthispaperweutiliseacombinationofsecondaryresearchandprimarydatacollectedthroughwrittenassignmentsandin-depth,post-programinterviewswithparticipantsfromthe2011FoodCultureinSpainprogram.Throughanalysisofthisdata,weaimtohighlighthowasensoryexperiencewithfoodcanbeanimportantpedagogicalstrategythatoftenconnectsformalandinformallearning.Specifically,wewishtoexplorethefollowingquestions:Howcantheintentionalityofculinarytourismbemobilisedtofosterempowered,critical,reflectivelearning?Inwhatwaysdoesthedesireforanauthenticfoodexperiencemotivatelearning?Finally,towhatextentcansensoryexperiencecontributetoastudentsunderstandingof authenticity?

  • 464 Throw your napkin on the floor

    Culinary tourism and authenticity: Defining the terms and reviewing the literature

    Thefirststepinunderstandingthepedagogicalsignificanceofashort-termtravelstudyprogramdedicatedtothestudyoffoodisadefinitionofculinarytourism;afterall,theroleofthetourististhemostprominentrolemanyofthestudentsplaywhileinthefield.Culinarytourismandtheexperienceofunderstandinganotherculturethroughfoodconstituteasignificantfieldofinquiryinfoodstudies.Culinarytourismisdifferentfromotherformsoftravellinginthatthereisapre-determinedmotivationforseekingoutfoodexperiences.LucyLong(2004:21)definesculinarytourismastheintentional,exploratoryparticipationinthefoodwaysofanotherandsheemphasisestheindividualasanactiveagentinconstructingmeaningswithinatouristexperience.ForLong,culinarytourismcannot be accidental. Intentionality is crucial. In an educational tourismcontext,itistheintentionalityoreatingwithapedagogicalpurposethatcanpushthetouristfromeatingasaformofsustenanceto eating with a critical eye.

    Itisimportanttoacknowledgeherethattheculinarytouristexperiencecultivatedaspartofauniversitydegreeprogramofstudyisdistinctfromtheculinarytouristexperiencedesignedforleisuretourists.Whilethereismuchoverlapbetweenthetwogroups,wehaveseen,firsthand,thedifferencesbetweentouringwiththeprimarymotivationofpleasure,combined,perhaps,withinformallearning,andtouringwiththejointmotivationofpleasureandformallearninginanacademicdiscipline.Themotivationforourdevelopmentofthisgroupstudyprogramwasaculinarytourwetookin2004withagroupofchefsandculinarystudents.Onthattour,asculinarytourists,weweredrivenbyadesiretoseewhatothersdontsee,dowhatothersdontdo,andeatwhatothersdonteatclassicfoodadventuring,inLisaHeldkesterms(2007).Wewereawareoftherisksofculinarytourismofslippingintopatternsofcolonialism

  • Lisa Stowe and Dawn Johnston 465

    andculturalappropriationthatcanoftenaccompanyadesire,toborrowthewordsofbellhooks(2000),toeattheother.

    Threeyearslater,whenleadingourownprograminourdualroleasguidesandteachers,weweredrivenbysimilardesires,but those desires were coupled with a deliberate and intentional pedagogicalgoal.WewantedourstudentstoengageinLongsintentionalexplorationoffoodandculture,andwecoupledthatwitharequirementforequallyintentionalscholarlyreflectionontheirexperiences.Inadditiontomoretraditionalassignmentssuchasresearchpapersandseminarpresentations,wecraftedreflectionquestionsandareflectivefinalexambasedonboththeformalcomponentsofourprogramandtheinformalexperiencesthat students had on their own and in groups. The questions asked studentstoframetheirfoodandtravelexperiencesinlightoftheirownbackgrounds,theirupbringing,andthesocio-culturalvaluesthathaveshapedtheirlearning.Wehopedthatthroughthisintentionalexploration,ourstudentscouldreflectonthehegemonictraditionsofculinarytourismwhilesimultaneouslyembracingtheopportunitiesprovidedbyculinarytourismtoexperience,toshare,andtointeractinthoughtfulandmeaningfulways.

    JennyMolz(2007:78)furthersLongsdefinitionofculinarytourism,explainingthat,foodactsasatransportablesymbolofplaceandofculturalidentity,oratangiblereminder,forthetourist,ofageographiclocationandexperienceofculture.BothLongandMolzemphasisethatitisnotsomuchthefooditselfthatisanobjectofculturalexperiencebutratheritisthesubjectsexperiencewiththefoodthattakesittoahigherlevelofsignificantmeaning.Fooditselfdoesnotchangedependinguponcontext;aValenciaorange