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Learning French Culture through Cooking

April 6, 2017

One prof, one chef, and one class of students make up the ingredients to this appetizing course.

The chef starts with a large dose of butter in a hot pan. He lets it melt and bubble before adding the eggs. A mouthwatering aroma fills the kitchen. The chef wiggles his spatula under the edges of the sizzling mixture. When the eggs become just slightly firm, the chef adds the freshest ingredients — tomatoes, spinach, onions, ham, and cheese. He tops the cheese with parsley. With a deft hand, he folds half of egg mixture over the melting cheese, and voilà — a French omelet!

This semester, UMD students are experiencing French culture through the sights, smells and sounds of cooking.

From left - Katie Haus, Nawal Mirzah, and Maria Onnen knead dough.

From left - Katie Haus, Nawal Mirzah, and Maria Onnen knead dough.

In France, dinnertime does not mean frozen pizza or leftovers. It might mean fresh omelets. At meals, food, passion, and relationships intersect. 

Dr. Dana Lindaman is an associate professor of French studies at UMD. He is teaching an honors course called French Cuisine: Exploring French Culture Through Food. “French studies has historically focused on literature,” he says, “however, culture is expressed in many different areas.”

Each class period is different. “In the class, we cook together, share recipes, learn techniques, discuss theoretical readings, and eat,” says Dr. Lindaman.

“We are learning about the culture in France, our own culture, and the people around us,” says honors psychology student Katie Haus. “Many of these lessons are applicable in my own life.” She has become a fan of making food from scratch and has found herself using more fresh ingredients.

Collaboration

Tom Linderholm, UMD dining services executive chef, adds a dynamic dimension to the class. “We need to be in a kitchen so the class can become hands-on,” Dr. Lindaman says. “Our collaboration with Tom brings academics and dining services together.”

“It’s not only a way for the students to learn about food and French lifestyles, it’s also a way for us to share our stories and experience,” says Linderholm.

Relationships in French Cuisine

“Simply buying groceries in France enriches the cooking and eating process,” says Dr. Lindaman.

UMD Chef Tom Linderholm

UMD Chef Tom Linderholm

“At the market, I would discuss vegetables and produce with the clerk. I would visit with neighbors and strangers that walked into the store. This was the same at the bakery and the butcher shop. Building relationships is a big part of French cuisine.”  

Each area of the world has it’s own particular style of cooking food. It’s more than physically preparing fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses.  “I believe there are two reasons to eat,” says Linderholm. “The first is for sustainability. The second is the experience of dining, sharing, and enjoying a meal with people.”

French cooking may just be a start. The collaboration between two seemingly different fields, cultural studies and culinary arts, is something Dr. Lindaman and Tom Linderholm feel could be an asset for other other disciplines and areas within UMD.

Sometimes learning can be found in the kitchen. Bon appetite!

Visit the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures website.

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