Food for thought: we become what we eat

Food for thought: we become what we eat

November 25, 2016

Last weekend, we staged our annual Jam at Kong Sin Wan Road, gathering students, parents, faculty, staff and friends together for a day of ‘fun-learning’ and ‘fund-raising’. It was a day that tempted as to try new tastes or develop new skills; it was a day when both talent and learning were on display. Despite our site constraints, we still managed to accommodate a very large number of participants, both old friends and new.

Firstly, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all of those who made our Food for Thought Jam such a success: our army of volunteer parents, faculty, staff, and students, particularly the core leadership team of Jam parents who planned and executed the operation; and not forgetting our wonderful Jam leadership team, under the command of Ms. Mimi Yeung and Ms. Miranda Fu, ably supported by Ms. Amelia Yip. The funds raised in this year’s Jam campaign will benefit our students directly, providing learning aids and equipment to the classrooms and learning spaces in our two new buildings.

This year’s theme, Food for Thought, sought to bring a number of ideas together into one day of experiential learning: food is an important human preoccupation, shared across all cultures and in all languages; thought is an action that needs to be cultivated, trained, and in both the abstract and literal sense, fed. Each day, we endeavor to offer learning experiences that stimulate and inspire, feeding mind and spirit with the nutritious produce of two languages and cultures through reading and other learning activities.

In our languages of instruction, there are many points of intersection between food and thought, sometimes profound, sometimes prosaic. We often use food-related expressions to convey common wisdom: we may be full of beans, bring home the bacon, when fussy, we cherry pick, ‘grapes’ we cannot obtain are sour, we enjoy the icing on the cake, but we should not cry over spilt milk: of course, we are what we eat. Some sayings reflect ideas that, perhaps, have some scientific basis: as cool as a cucumber invokes the claim that the interior of a cucumber can be up to 10C cooler than its skin temperature.

Perhaps unremarkably, many expressions in Chinese similarly invoke food-related imagery to convey important ideas. We cannot have both fish and bear paws (魚與熊掌不可兼得), which amounts to not being able to have one’s cake and eat it too. In the same way that milk cannot be unspilled, rice, once cooked, cannot be uncooked (生米煮成熟飯). While watched pots never boil, one can also not eat hot beancurd in haste (心急吃不了熱豆腐).

From our first days of life, we commence our exploration of the world, initially by way of our sense of taste. New parents may recoil in horror at the objects they observe infants placing in their mouths, not comprehending that for those young children, the mouth and tongue are the most sensitive and well developed tools through which to explore the world. This is the very first stage of experiential learning. The sense in which the realm of taste captures the full spectrum of human experience is captured neatly in the Chinese expression: 酸甜苦辣鹹(sour, sweet, bitter, spicy, salty: the bitter sweet experiences of life).

Ultimately, we are the product of what we consume, both physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Our experience of the world through what we ingest influences who are and what we become. We should therefore be thoughtful in our consumption, taking time to choose, to savor, to enjoy, and digest. Food generates the physical capacity for thought and provides endless inspiration for new ways in which thought can be captured and communicated. On Jam day, the funds we raised together from food will support student thought. Food for thought, indeed.

Dr. Malcolm Pritchard
Head of School

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