Skip to main content

Creative
Nation

Can seeing food as a creative subject - one that is taught for enjoyment - shape a brighter future?

Scroll
2 min read

Can seeing food as a creative subject - one that is taught for enjoyment - shape a brighter future?

2 min read

Can seeing food as a creative subject - one that is taught for enjoyment - shape a brighter future?

Cafe owner, food writer and policy activist Michelle Darmody writes about changing our approach to how we teach children about food, and the wider societal benefits that could bring.

The writer Alice B Toklas once said about the French approach to food that “they bring to their consideration of the table the same appreciation, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature and for the theatre”.

If for a moment we imagine teaching cooking in the same way we teach painting, theatre or music how different might the Irish approach to food be. Would it entail more enjoyment, creativity, appreciation and understanding? I like to think so.

Above: Cafe owner, food writer and policy activist Michelle Darmody

Eating is the one thing that we all have to do each day, but sometimes we do not see what is most obvious. Our diet not only shapes our bodies but also our society and our relationships within that society. For many it is a complicated and fraught relationship, but for others it can be a source of joy, creativity and pleasure. There is a constant, stark conversation about how food negatively affects the health of Ireland’s children. If we as a country want to change children’s relationships with food, we need to instigate a paradigm shift in how we educate about food.

Within our complicated food system education is one cog that can be used to create change. It is by no means the only one, wider issues need to be addressed, such as access to wholefoods and the over prevalence of advertising, but if we move our thinking about how we educate it may be the start of building a different, more exciting, more creative future. 

Currently the focus in food education is on nutrition, on what are “good’ and “bad” foods and it is not creating the change that is intended. When children are taught to play an instrument or to paint, they are not taught what is good or bad but to enjoy and appreciate the music, to develop an understanding of culture and pleasure. If food is taught in a similar way perhaps young people can form a more positive lifelong affinity. 

History only became a subject in Universities and in schools in the early nineteen hundreds. It is hard to visualise a time when it was considered unimportant, but it is an example of how the educational cannon can be moulded and is not as fixed as we may think. If we treat food as a subject situated within the humanities rather than in a narrow health framework how different might it look? We could start to build towards a future of enjoyment and creativity that can be developed and nurtured throughout life. 

Michelle Darmody is a food writer for The Irish Examiner, as well as being a researcher and food consultant. She is currently working alongside Green Schools to develop a Food and Biodiversity Flag as well as setting up a policy network to address Food in Schools. https://greenschoolsireland.org/

Photo Credit: Fergal Philips  

news
letter

Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and events at Creative Ireland