Pleasing the Palate

The great American food writer M.F.K. Fisher was fond of saying that since we must eat in order to live, we might as well do it "with all possible skill, delicacy, and ever-increasing enjoyment." Fisher, who wrote as eloquently about potato chips as about caviar, believed that living fully requires "the deliberate use of all our senses"--and that one of the best ways to enjoy our senses is to eat good food with good company.

Food, she recognized, transcends nourishment. Just as life is poorer when we live merely to eat, so it is richer when we are "eating to live, with the herbs and the skillet and the shared flavors of existence."

The herbs and the skillet and the shared flavors of existence. Is there a better explanation than this for why bright and creative people from fine colleges like Kenyon seek their livelihood in a world that can be all-consuming, exhausting, cutthroat, mired in physicality, and rife with failures?

The fact is that, despite its hardships and risks, the world of fine food and wine can indeed engage human existence with remarkable fullness. The preparation of meals is an art, a craft, a science. It is practical. It is aesthetic. Nothing is more primal, nothing more entwined with civilization. (Think of the role played by food and drink in the rituals of every society.) It embodies tradition. It embraces innovation. It expresses culture, and it can blend different cultures. It is hard work. It is immensely pleasurable. It is sensory (not to mention sensual), and it can be ethereal. Food is as transient as yesterday's leftovers. And yet it has profound meaning: as Proust taught us, it can recall the past to life.

Given the breadth and depth of this realm, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised at the number of Kenyon alumni who have found fulfillment and success in kitchens, restaurants, breweries, and publications devoted to food and wine. We have space here to profile only a few. We hope that their stories suggest the ways that all alumni in this field are creating meaning, and beauty, using the shared flavors of existence.

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