Cooking shows, especially “reality” cooking competitions, are among my growing list of guilty pleasures. Aw, heck, why do I even say guilty…there are probably worse ways to wind down after a long day. The judges of the contestants’ efforts come in a variety of shapes and personalities. Some are nasty, others kindly. Some are svelte, others Falstaffian. My husband is amused by Graham Elliot, currently a judge on Fox TV’s Master Chef, whose habitus definitely falls in the latter category. Chef Graham always makes a great show of smelling a dish before tasting it, clearly deriving great pleasure from the experience. We might fret over his long-term health prospects, but we’re pretty confident that he knows something about the pleasure to be derived from food.
No time to taste
If we believe that pleasure is an important tool for leveraging learning, then we ought to emulate Chef Elliot, actively seeking and savoring learning experiences. During the school year, it’s easy to slip into a restricted learning diet. We read the things we have to/ought to in our discipline. We read the things we should/must to improve our pedagogy and (we hope) keep our jobs. Sometimes this doesn’t leave much room for the “desserts” that we informavores really crave: exploring something totally new that reminds us how much fun it is to learn.
The TV foodie judges sometimes ask the purveyor of an unsuccessful dish, “Did you taste this? Because it is _______.” (Undercooked, under seasoned, too salty, too hot, etc.)
The contestant typically responds, “No, Chef, I didn’t have time.”
Sometimes I am that chef. I don’t offer the best learning experiences to my students because I haven’t “tasted” anything that’s very challenging to learn myself for awhile. My lessons taste stale because I’m stale. I need to personally taste both the frustration and the joy of acquiring a new skill or new knowledge. I’ve become a skinny cook.
And that’s why God created summer. I love these long, unstructured days when I can gorge on whatever bonbons of knowledge strike my fancy. I can fatten up on books, both edifying reads and frankly junky page-turners. I can browse the net. I can stream movies through the Roku. Last summer I bought a good boogie board and kinda-sorta figured out how to navigate the surf. This summer I may take a paddleboarding lesson.
The UPS fairy has already delivered the materials for my first project: Spencerian Copybooks 1-5. After reading a post on Slate about Spencerian penmanship, I decided to give it a try. My sweet friend Charlotte Nelson has the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen, having learned the Spencerian technique as a school girl in Iowa a few decades ago. I hope to improve my doctor scrawl, a mangled version of the Palmer method foisted on me in the 60’s, as an homage to her. There will probably be some smiling and some swearing in the effort, and I bet I’ll learn something about learning.