I just finished a English Composition class that was quite interesting. Our class theme was entirely based on books and a documentary video on food. I am a confirmed foodie iconoclast, thoroughly believing that one should eat what is set before one. However, I was drawn into an impressive indictment of the “Western Diet” beginning with Michael Pollan’s tough journalistic exposure, In Defense of Food, An Eater’s Manifesto, followed by a lively documentary, King Corn, uncovering the takeover of Iowa farming by Yellow Dent Corn (a basically inedible product in need of extreme food processing) and winding up with a fictional tie-in, My Year of Meats, by Ruth L Ozeki. We had to write four types of essays on food. I found this a unique, if somewhat limiting, approach for an English class, proving that any subject can become an instrument of instruction. The food thread has led to a couple additions to my reading list. The first is called Service Included, Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter. An excerpt from the second book was used to introduce each chapter in My Year of Meats. It was written about a thousand years ago in Japan during the Heian dynasty by Sei Shonagon, a member of the imperial court. It is called The Pillow Book and is a fascinating documentary of life in a “dimly lit and circumscribed world” (Pillow Book intro, pg. 15). Let me just say that Shonagon was a excellent female writer.

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