Hello, I’m Asiago, lead organizer for The Food Studies Project. My last name is “Heron” named in honor of the Great Blue Heron. I am told by people during my time at UT Austin that I have an inspiring personal story to tell. I would like to share an abridged version of my story, give thanks for the education I have received, and invite you all to come fly with me this winter. I have always had an interest in food, probably because I was pulled out of elementary school when I was seven years old, and spent most of life at home eating and watching the Food Network. Sadly though, I did not learn much about food or cooking sitting in front of the television. I just ended up eating more. It got to the point that I had to eat something every time I sat down to watch TV. By the time I was 13, I was already an obese teen who spent his days playing games, only pausing to go steal cigarettes and food, which I called “Game Fuel”, at my neighborhood market. My life was wasting away because I never left the nest, never built the courage to take that first leap. I started learning how to fly when I decided to go back to school at the age of 20. I started a new life thanks to junior college. At the time, I could not imagine that taking a Spanish class would not only guide me to UT Austin but also teach me how to fly around the world.
Education helped me think differently about food, and it naturally changed my unhealthy ways. Studying foreign cultures and languages brought me awareness about the importance and meaning of food. Meanwhile, my concern grew for the future of food throughout the world. My first couple of years at UT, I did not know I had this food focus in my studies. It wasn’t until I came upon Dr. Rebecca Torres’ course “Farming, Food, and Global Hunger” that I realized I had always had great interests and concerns with food in all of my classes.
I began to experiment with the Food Studies blog in the beginning of 2011 to explore my own personal interests in food studies. My goal with the blog site was for it to become a hub for students and professors alike to share their resources and interests in food studies, a site where we could begin to understand the broad themes and complications of food in modern day society. I wanted to learn about food from different schools of thought, so I started to take food courses from different academic departments. I realized I was not the only one with interests and concerns about food as I met many people across UT (students, professors, and organizations) who were all studying food in their respective disciplines. I began to call these people “Foodists” because in addition to their food focus in education, they were trying to apply their education to create positive change in our world’s foodways. Last year, I decided that UT Austin could benefit from an interdisciplinary program in Food Studies, due to the existing resources, the waitlisted classes, and most importantly the students desire to study food in college.
In the Fall 2011 semester, my good friend Drew and I launched “The Food Studies Project”. We were positive that students around the world could benefit their communities and lives by having the foundation of the study of food. As we began to outreach to our fellow students and seek advice, the interest in food studies took off quickly, and we had to learn to be dynamic in order not to crash. We began to receive inquiries from around the world about how we could implement a Food Studies Program into their schools and professors wanting to become visiting academics at UT. As full-time seniors with jobs, it is hard for Drew and I to accept not having all the answers, but falling a little bit is part of learning to fly. Yet, the project is gaining momentum and there is a risk that the process will go faster than the forces of gravity will allow us to achieve lift.
Personally, education about food taught me how to fly and as a way to give back I considered this project my senior contribution. Like most birds, I don’t like to fly alone, so I ask you all to come fly with us. Don’t know how? I will teach you in my next post!