A Food Autobiography

By Lindsay Mensch

Adapted from a website she designed for one of her courses at Michigan State University.

–   –   –

Most children don’t beg their mothers to cook their favorite vegetable. However, one human specimen was quite the exception to this cultural rule; her name is Lindsay Mensch.

Born September 8, 1997, the young girl had a palate quite advanced in the realm of plant-based food, noted by her affinity for broccoli. As a young child, the tastes reserved for adults mostly intrigued her. As a girl of no more than five, still enjoying drinks from her sippy cups, she had her first taste of coffee. Of course, it was composed of more 2% milk than the actual caffeinated drink, but for a while, that satiated her curiosity about the flavor of the bitter stuff.

then-1-lindsay-mensch
A 9 month old Lindsay, crying in her grandfather’s arms. Probably because there was cantaloupe on the table behind her, which she once found disgusting.

Spending the first 9 years of her life an only child – before the birth of her sister – Lindsay was permitted to eat what she wanted, at least to some degree. A large number of her elementary school classmates brought Lunchables to school for their midday meal; this was something that appealed immensely to Lindsay. Whether due to a lack of agency in selecting lunch options or a desire to fit in with the Lunchable-eating crowd, she persisted in asking her mother Cindy to buy them for her school lunch. Cindy refused to surrender to this battle, in part because she was aware of the unhealthful and suspiciously processed options that the company included in their lunch trays.

Far in the future, once she had moved past her unrequited Lunchable dreams, Lindsay went to college.

In August 2015, she moved to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. Many of her food habits shifted: some consciously, others unintentionally. By moving on campus, she began to eat at the dining halls, which provided an assortment of options that were sometimes new to her, like curry and spanakopita. It also allowed her to finally make a conversion to a vegetarian diet, which was something that was heavily stigmatized in her house beforehand. She was never a perfect vegetarian, however; often, her cravings would get the best of her and she would slip up. Despite these slips, she learned a lot about vegetarian options and found creative ways to prepare her food. Her curiosity to try new cuisines drove her in this newfound fascination.

veggies
Almost too beautiful to eat!

A significant shift in her eating habits occurred at her summer 2016 internship; this marked the start of her love affair with food. Independent from the campus cafeterias and her mother’s cooking, she had to plan her own meals, go grocery shopping, and prepare herself the food that she wanted to eat. It was her first food experience where she could be true to her tastes; she learned more about experimentation and proper methods in cooking, but also better determined the flavors she enjoyed the most. Differentiating between her mother’s cooking, her cooking, and the preparation done by other chefs that she watched regularly on TV helped her to escape her previous biases and connect personally with the food she eats.

Environmental concerns about the foods she eats shape her culinary choices; for example, she is more compelled to buy a tomato from a local farmer’s market in July than a zucchini that mysteriously arrives at Meijer in January. She would love to take on that moral challenge next; eating seasonally can have a significant environmental impact just as reducing meat consumption can.

kbs-internship-lindsay-mensch
Summer 2016: A wild Lindsay appears.

With an attraction to foods from her childhood and a fixation on food in the present, it seems that Lindsay Mensch is still an evolving creature. She has seen a shift in her focused passion for food,from her understanding of the way that privilege can impact the way she looks at the foods of others to learning about the systematic barriers to accessing healthful food.. Although cooking, her original love, is still a great source of interest, she is beginning to see a future working in the realm of environmental/food justice. After all, change is a constant in the life of a busy, indecisive college student.

There is one thing that will never change; she will always love broccoli.

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