In the final session of the spring series of Bucket Courses, Grinnell College Professor of Russian Todd Armstrong will talk about how he has integrated experiential learning in a kitchen lab into his teaching of literature and culture. The presentation, entitled “Food Stories,” will take place May 3 in the Caulkins Room at Drake Community Library from 10:00-11:30 a.m. Bucket Courses are open to everyone in the community; no preregistration or fee required. Donations toward refreshments are welcome.

Describing the focus of his talk, Armstrong says, “I will describe the evolution of ‘Comrades in the Kitchen,’ a course in which my students and I use the methodologies of literary and cultural analysis, and the evolving field of food studies, to research, write, and speak about how food reflects the human experience during the Soviet era. I’ll also describe how cooking with students in Grinnell College’s Marcus Family Global Kitchen brings a new and exciting dimension to the traditional classroom—how we ‘cook to learn.’” 

Armstrong notes that he came to his recent understanding about the importance both culturally and politically of food from personal experience: “I plan to discuss one of my own food stories, which involves soup, and a recipe I learned in Moscow in 1983. The soup–borscht—was something I had always thought of as Russian, and I’ve been making it for students for years, calling my version Moscow-style borscht. However, that name is now called into question, not only by the UNESCO designation of Ukrainian borshch as ‘an item of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,’ but even more so by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine—a war that has caused the entire field of Russian studies to confront the unpleasant reality that our discipline is in dire need of rethinking and decolonization.”

He adds that food stories include stories of hunger, starvation, famine—globally and locally. He asks, “If we are cooking for each other, shouldn’t we also think how we might cook for those who are hungry? In that context, I will discuss howmy students and I respond to food insecurity in the Grinnell community.”

Members of the sponsoring Community Education Cooperative include Grinnell Regional Medical Center, Grinnell College, Drake Community Library, Grinnell-Newburg School District, Grinnell Area Arts Council, Mayflower Community, Grinnell Education Partnership, Read to Lead, and Iowa Valley Community College. Videos of previous Bucket Courses are available on the YouTube channel Grinnell Community Education Cooperative.

For more information, contact Judy Hunter

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