Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teaching ESL & The Taste of Sweet

Firstly, it's all official now - I've registered at International House and will be starting a four-week training program on March 1 (next Monday!). I think that qualifies as both a "hooray!" and an "eek!" I'm planning on hitting the library today to get some books on grammar and ESL teaching methodology to help with preparation...all five days of it :) Looking back, it seems like a lot of the biggest decisions I've made happened very suddenly, without having had a lot of time to contemplate things. Hopefully that's because it was all meant to be somehow :)

Do you mull things over quite a bit, or tend to go more with gut feelings and intuition?

Delicious cookies were baked a couple of days ago. They were healthy too, of course :) My favourite cookie to bake is oatmeal walnut dried cranberry with some wheat germ and sometimes chocolate chips (but not this time). Wholesome and still sooo very very tasty :) I use a quarter of the sugar that the recipe recommends, and find that it's sweet enough.

Speaking of cookies, I'm currently reading an interesting book called 'The Taste of Sweet' by Joanne Chen. Here's the little blurb on it from the official web site: "Why we're crazy about sweets, but hate to love them: a historical, scientific, and socioeconomic journey down candy lane for sugarholics, foodies, and lovers of pop science and culture." It examines a variety of topics relating to the realm of all things sweet in an easy-to-read, compelling way. So far, I've read about the science behind tasting (there's some fascinating info on how we all have different amounts of taste buds so some of us are non-tasters, some medium-tasters, and some super-tasters); the history of how desserts in various countries came about and evolved; a disturbing chapter all about "making flavours" (this one made me shudder, it was a bit like reading a dystopian novel in which real food has gone extinct).

Right now I'm reading a chapter called 'Sweet Tooths Anonymous'. It's very light, straightforward reading on an entertaining topic, and it's actually surprisingly thought-provoking since it brings in some deeper questions regarding our relationships with desserts. My favourite parts though have been about the history of desserts and also the scientific tid bits and examples of experiments. For example, in one experiment people were presented with two sets of orange juice. In the first set, the two glasses contained exactly the same juice, but one was dyed a brighter colour. In the second set, the juices had the same colour but one contained more sugar. When asked which set, A or B, contained juices that tasted differently, most answered that it was set A - the one with the dye.

I really like books that aren't only all about recipes and nutrition, but also about the story of food and how it fits into culture and shapes our day-to-day life. It's a fascinating topic and there are many stories to tell :)

Have a cozy day!


  1. I totally agree with you on the social/cultural side of food! That's actually what I want to study with my PhD (in sociology) :)

    Have you read "Fast Food Nation"? It's a really interesting book that gets behind the surface of the fast-food industry. If you like stuff about "making flavours" - you'll really be interested in some of the chapters in there - especially the one about french fries!

  2. oh! and where are you going to teach ESL? :)

  3. I haven't read that one yet, but from what I've heard it's pretty scary! I did a holistic nutrition program and one of the books we read was 'The End of Food' by Thomas F. Pawlick, which has similar themes.

    I'm hoping to teach at International House in Vancouver to start off with. It's on West Broadway, near Oak.

    And what a great subject for your PhD, that will be so interesting to study and write about!

  4. Congrats! How exciting! I'm sure it will work out for you, no problem :) I'll echo briogusto - where are you teaching?

    That book sounds really interesting. I like reading books about the story and history behind food, along with my nutrition :) Have you read any of the Michael Pollan books?

  5. That sounds like a cool program - where did you take it? I'm really interested in continuing some holistic nutrition/lifestyle courses on the side.

    I actually have 'The End of Food' sitting on my bookshelf! Just gotta get around to reading it...sigh!

    That's cool about International House! That part of Van would definitely have a lot of demand for ESL teachers :)

  6. For holistic nutrition I went to Canada's School of Natural Nutrition: The Vancouver campus is in Kitsilano, we always used to go to Capers on 4th Ave for lunch :) The school is quite small but seems to be growing as more people are getting interested in holistic health and nature and all that good stuff :)

  7. I have read some Michael Pollan and I really like his writing! Intelligent, well-researched, insightful, and still simple. I like that he doesn't come up with complicated recommendations or use fear-mongering - he just states the facts and suggests that we go back to basics. I also like that he treats food as food, not just a combination of carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, etc.

    Hopefully I'll get to teach in Vancouver, Canada to start with...I would also really like to travel some more, maybe go to Australia and/or New Zealand next :)