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Connecting Literature to Food: Shakespeare and the Garden

By Ashley Souza '18

One of the classes that I am taking as a senior at HPA is English 12 Food Literature with Mrs. Clark. The experiences I've gained so far while taking this course are based around connecting with the cultures and practices of growing and preparing food through not only books, but other forms of literature like poetry and theatre.

Our first project began when we started planting and getting some soil underneath our fingernails We began planting an area within the school's garden that was entirely based around Shakespeare's plays, stories, and plants. We started off with a list of plants, fruits, and vegetables that have been referred to in Shakespeare's work. Our class as a whole put a lot of thought into what goes into the garden and why it's relevant. For example, we compiled quotes of plants referenced in Shakespeare, researched scientific information regarding the plants description, properties, Latin names, as well as what we might be able to do with them, meaning their culinary uses, potions, and medical uses of plants. The plants that we found to be most useful for our class included oranges, lemons, fig, rosemary, lavender, onion chives, garlic chives, daisies, ginger, rhubarb, and marigold.

We then started our hands-on experience planting the foods and vegetables we'd chosen to put in the garden. This has added up to about 4-5 days of work. As a reference, the class read and reflected on material from the book Food Rules by Michael Pollan. Some of the "rules" mentioned in this book discuss eating foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state growing in nature, or eating well-grown food from healthy soil. My first thought was that the best way to know that your food has been "well-grown" is to do the job yourself. Not only was I able to understand the value of eating home grown foods as well as being aware of exactly what I was putting into my body, but I was able to gain a new appreciation for literature. Before this experience, I had never considered the relationship literature could have with the earth, specifically plants and food.

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