#43: Food through Storytelling with Joseph Nagy

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  00:02

Today we are going on a journey through space and time, we will be exploring food through stories and folklore. The stories we tell the stories we hear have the ability to transport us to a different time in place. Join us in our conversation with UCLA emeritus professor, Dr. Joseph Nagy about the symbolisms of food and folklore, specifically medieval Celtic folklore, Dr. Nagy’s research and work aligned with the greater purpose to keep oral traditions alive. That means telling stories. He believes in interdisciplinary dialogues, and has been a great advocate for ensuring literature and ancient texts remain in the current academic dialogues of today. Join us as we explore the centrality of food and storytelling through events from the grim such as the Irish Potato Famine, to the whimsical, such as the baking and sharing of gingerbread figures.  Hello Joseph, thank you so much for being on our live well podcast today. I’d like to start our conversation off by talking about food scarcity and how it relates to stories. Food scarcity has been such a prevalent issue over the centuries. I mean, think about Marie Antoinette famously sang let them eat cake when there was no bread to be eaten in France at the time. Why do you think that people are focused more on food scarcity, as opposed to food abundance and stories?

Dr Nagy  01:33

Well, remember, I’m also very much interested in Irish tradition. And of course, in the mid 19th century, there was the Irish famine, and Irish folklorists have done wonderful work on stories that were still being collected from survivors of the famine, or from the children of survivors of the famine, in the early 20th century. And the fascinating thing is, is that there are stories told about the famine, and about how terrible it was. But the people in the stories that people tell, are never the ones who are actually starving, that the premise of the stories is very often that we in our village, we were fine. But then this poor shell of a human being came to our village, and her family had died or his family had died. And we essentially took this person in and we fed this person and the person went on. So in the case of those famines stories, it’s not so much even about the impact of the famine upon the individuals telling the story, but about how people responded to the famine. And if you want to be cynical about it, it’s a very self serving kind of story, because it suggests that number one, we were provided for. And number two, we were very good to the people who had to go without. So it’s a way to remind ourselves not just about the importance of food, but also about the importance of human connection and social connection. And of there being situations where even if it’s a complete stranger, you have to be hospitable. And in many cultures, including Irish culture, hospitality is one of the prime areas of concern. And to be hospitable is one of the most important values within the value system. And oftentimes being hospitable, even to strangers. And that’s interesting, because we sometimes think of pre modern cultures as being very isolated and very paranoid about people from the outside and so forth. But I don’t think that’s true. Or it may be true to some extent, but there are these cultural forces that are working against that, or that are trying to overcome that kind of fear of the stranger. And many of these stories having to do with the lack of food, end up in a situation where the person lacking food, receives food from someone who does have it, and then that person is sometimes supernaturally rewarded. If we go back to the world of fairy tales, for example, very often the hero, or the heroine receives that magic power or that magic Assist, which makes it possible for the hero or heroine to reach that happy ending. Because she or he was kind to someone and shared food,

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  04:24

Right, or Snow White or you get poisoned.

Dr Nagy  04:27

Well, again, know that that’s the darker side of it. Yes, yes. And of course, she’s being poisoned by someone who, in the version of the story, as told in the Grimm collection is her stepmother. Yeah. So again, it’s this tight relationship with within the nuclear family, and how that is sometimes not reliable. And how sometimes people turn against each other even in that kind of situation. So yes, there is that realism or even that cynicism you sometimes see and stories, but there’s also that hope, that when push comes to shove it People are going to be generous, right? And that they will do the right thing.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  05:05

You are an Irish folklorists? And how did that come about with your Hungarian background? Like what drew you to the Irish? Versus? Hungarian

Dr Nagy  05:17

I’m not sure it was the food. Though I’ve always thought that the characterization of the Irish and of Irish restaurants and of Irish home cooking as being boring, is very unfair. Because in fact, I’ve had wonderful food in Ireland whenever I’ve gone for a visit, and the bread and the milk, even in these more modern times when all the dairies have been consolidated. And bread is being made more centrally, as opposed to individual little base shops through the country. The still the food is quite wonderful, the basic food, the basic food, but I wanted to go into a field where I was in love with the material, but that it was not actually part of my own background. How come? In part because I think I wanted to have that objective distance. And that’s something I have with with Irish material, because yes, I am in love with it. And why are you in love with it, because it’s so wonderfully imaginative. And there’s so much of it. And there’s so few people working on Irish material. In Ireland. Well, there’s there’s only one Celtic department and that’s the one I’m at. There are some Irish studies programs, however, but they tend to be focused on more modern Irish affairs and topics. I’m very interested in the Irish Middle Ages, extraordinary period of creativity, of bringing together different strands of the Western medieval tradition with pre Christian with Christian with innovative concepts and ideologies coming into play, and also the remarkably cheeky idea, which probably occurred to the Irish first of all, and this is in after the fall of the Roman Empire and after the glorious period of Greek and Latin literature. Basically, Latin was the language of literature in Western Europe. And the Irish came up with this brilliant invention of a written form of their own language, using the Latin alphabet, which was perhaps not ideally suited to conveying the sounds of Irish. But it was a remarkably bold step to take. And not only to creating this vernacular Irish for writing purposes, but producing this vast literature, which includes a lot of native material, a lot of innovative material. For several centuries, despite all kinds of political and military pressures coming from the outside. You have the invasion of the Normans in the 12th century. Before that, you had the Vikings wreaking havoc. And then later during the Tudor period, the attempt on the part of the English crown to basically subjugate the Irish. But throughout all this period, there’s this wonderful literary activity going on in a huge body, which fortunately has actually survived, for us to enjoy for us to learn from, for us to edit it to translate and to try to figure out. So there’s a lot there. Unfortunately, as you said, it’s not an area that is that explored in the academic world. And I’m not sure I would recommend it to students unless they really have a passionate attachment to this, because there aren’t too many jobs in Celtic studies. And here at UCLA, for example, I was hired as a folklorist, I was not hired as Celticist.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  08:38

So what is that? What’s the difference between that folklorists versus Celticist?

Dr Nagy  08:43

Well, a folklorist compares. So a folklorist oftentimes has some base of operations has some kind of lab, shall we say some culture where the folklore is of special interest. And by the way, for me, folklore is almost synonymous with oral tradition. So it’s what doesn’t necessarily get written down, or that which in many cases lies behind what does get written down in oral tradition operates in a very different way from written tradition. And oral tradition, even in some ways has a different etiology. From what you see in written tradition. It’s a little bit like comparing what we save versus what we actually are willing to put into print. So folklorist, you compare, so you don’t limit yourself to one particular culture. As a Celticist, I do limit myself to specifically medieval Irish literature, and looking at that as a reflection of medieval Irish oral tradition, and also a precursor to modern Irish oral tradition, which is still alive and well, and which has been amply recorded by Irish folklorists in the 19th and 20th centuries. I’m very much interested in storytelling. And I don’t think I’m relying too much on a cliche to say that the Irish are master and have been master stories tellers?

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  10:00

Oh, I was just thinking that I mean, all the Irish friends of mine, I just can sit for hours in the evening to hear their stories.

Dr Nagy  10:09

The gift of God, yes.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  10:10

Yeah. I mean, how do people become good storytellers? I mean, what is what? How does that happen that this cultural group of people or have this talent?

Dr Nagy  10:21

Well, I think we see that with other cultures too, is that there’s a premium put on developing your verbal skills, and developing a rhetorical style, which catches people’s attention where you can maintain people’s attention with a good story, and a story, which is a good story, in part because of how you tell it. I think we find that in, in Irish culture, I think we also find that to a great extent in African American culture, where again, there’s a great deal of emphasis placed upon being a good talker, appreciating the power of the spoken word, to influence people. It’s also something that comes through in various career or professional areas, we as teachers, now you are, of course, a master teacher, I’m just still learning. But teachers very often use stories in order to bring the students into what they want them to be thinking about. Preachers, people in religious situations, again, they very often are especially successful if they can also also tell a story well, so telling a story well is wonderful for its own sake. But it’s also a way to, to bring up larger issues to exert a kind of control. And usually, we hope of beneficial control over people, of course, it can also be used for, for bad purposes. And we can all think of politicians who use stories to encourage wrong thinking. So there is also that, of course, we humans, very interested in stories, and we like to hear stories.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  11:54

And is that what you would when you referred to the fact that you were attracted to Celtic literature, because of the creativity? Was it when you define creativity? How do you define that?

Dr Nagy  12:05

Very good question. Part of the the fascination that this material holds for me, the medieval Irish materialist, is really the narrative material that we find in it is that sometimes hard to find the punch line, sometimes hard to figure out what the story is actually getting at. Or you have the feeling that this story is being addressed to people who already know the story. So you’re just hitting the highlights. And so it becomes a detective work really, to try to figure out what the missing gaps are in the story, or to try to figure out what the clues are in the story that give you a clearer sense of what the story is really all about. So for example, if you have a story that consists of 100 lines of text, which would probably only take a few minutes to tell if in that text, which is survived in a medieval Irish manuscript, if you find the same word, or the same element of a word, being repeated more than once being repeated several times, that may well be a clue as to what the story is about. And so you focus on that. And you think about that, and you, you consider what the significance of that word is, and also what the significance of that word is for the narrative situation that’s being presented. And it’s a technique that’s been used by scholars in the last century. And some of us still find that to be a very effective way to try to crack the nut that lies within the story, you’re cracking the code? Well, we Yes, we are trying to crack the code. And the code is one that is doubly encoded, because of course, there’s first the language and I the Irish language, is not an easy language at all, and especially medieval Irish, which is different from modern Irish. But medieval Irish is a very, very, it’s a beautifully complex language. So there’s, there’s that code which we as non speakers that medieval Irish have to break through. And knowing modern Irish helps. But again, modern Irish is quite different from the evil Irish, in the same way than modern English is different from Old English or even from most Middle English. So you have to crack the code of the language. And then once you’re inside it, and once you sort of understand what the language is saying, there still is the language of symbols, the language of metaphors and the language of illusion, which, which then you have to figure out, there’s also another school of thought, according to which much of this has to do with contemporary politics of the Middle Ages in Ireland, and that these references to Kings into saints into heroes and so forth, are actually encoded references to historical figures at the time when that text was produced. And I think sometimes that’s taken too far, because I’m not sure that that’s necessarily the only thing that the story is about or doing. There’s this one very delightful medieval Irish tale for example, which has to do with a poor student who decides to become a professional poet, because professional poets are successful, and they have prestige, and they’re given all kinds of gifts, it’s much better than being a student in some drafty monastery. So he leaves the monastery and he goes off to become a poet. And he ends up on the other side of Ireland, in the court of a king, who has been magically affected, so that he eats everything in sight. And this is a people not he does not go so far as to be cannibalistic, but he eats all the food that’s available. And that’s a very bad way for a medieval Irish King to be because the medieval Irish King is supposed to be someone who offers feasts to people. And kings, of course, also can expect hospitality in return, but kings are supposed to provide food, they’re also supposed to have this magical affinity with nature, so that if the king is a good king, then the crops will come in on time, the harvest will be plentiful, the fruit, the trees will bear fruit, and so forth, and so on. So here you have this king who used to be a good king. But because he struck by this magical disease inflicted upon him by a rival by an enemy, he’s become this omnivore. So the poet comes to him. And the poet realizes the reason why he’s like that, and how this magic is working, is that there’s a little demon inside him, which is actually the one with the ravenous appetite. And he has to somehow lower that demon out of the king’s mouth. And he does this by telling a story by telling a long, long story about how he supposedly in a vision he had at night, went to a land which was made out of food. And here it becomes this fantastic adventure where the walls are made of butter. The sausages are are decorations on people’s bodies, and so forth. And even the people he meats are, in fact, edible. So there, we almost get that hint of cannibalism in while he’s telling you this story. He’s also conducting a barbecue with pieces of meat on a spit. And he’s doing this all in front of the king, who meanwhile, has been tied up, so that he can’t actually approach the food that the former student, now poet and storyteller is telling him. And finally, the demon inside just can’t stand it any longer. So he comes in, he actually does leap out from the mouth of the king, in order to get the food. But our hero then quickly finds a cauldron and pops it on top of the demon, and then exorcise the demon. So there’s a very strong Christian element here to exorcise the demon so that it goes back to wherever it came from. And the king now is fine. So it’s fascinating in that story, how you’ve got a problem with food. And the solution is to use food as a kind of weapon, or to use the process of cooking food, a kind of weapon, but also storytelling, about how storytelling can gather storytelling can attract the attention even of a sinister demon from another world. So you can’t beat material like that. You can’t.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  18:21

I mean, that’s, that’s tremendous. And did someone cracked the code on that? Or was that more obvious that story

Dr Nagy  18:28

We’re getting there. And I’ve written about it somewhat. Some colleagues have also written about it. This is another great thing about medieval Irish literature, this text has been translated has been fairly well edited. But there really isn’t that much that’s been written about it. So probably, you could cover what’s been written about it in two, three hours. And there’s so much left to say, and there’s so much left to explore. It’s actually a rather lengthy text. And so you don’t have that feeling which you have in other academic fields, where you come up with a brilliant idea, some brilliant insight or interpretation of a text, and then you find out that someone’s already published this 50 years ago. So that doesn’t happen so much in the study of medieval Irish or other medieval Celtic literature’s

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  19:15

So what are you the most proud of, in terms of you cracking the code in a story?

Dr Nagy  19:22

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve really cracked the code yet. But I think probably what I’m best known for, is for having brought to the foreground of scholarly discussion over the last 30 years or so, a body of story, which centers on a figure called Finn F-I-N-N and who, in the earliest strata of medieval Irish literature doesn’t appear very much. But then starting in the 12th century, more and more of the texts that are written in the stories that are told in these texts have to do with this hero Finn, and with the other heroes associated with him, and in part because of the lack of reference to Finn in pre 12th century Irish literature, not as much attention I think had been paid to him as two other heroes who have a longer shelf life or who, who have an older pedigree. And we have characters like this and other Celtic traditions too. So for example, the figure of King Arthur, in British Celtic tradition, even though this is a story that’s not told in any British Celtic source, it’s only told in French and English sources and so forth. But it’s probably coming from a Celtic source. We all know the story about the sword in the stone, yes, that the young Arthur has to remove this sword from the stone, and that demonstrates he’s king. And then he’s off on his heroic career, even though in fact, most stories that are part of the Arthurian cycle, don’t really have that much to do with Arthur himself, they have more to do with the knights in his court.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  20:52

That’s right.

Dr Nagy  20:53

Now, in the case of Finn, he becomes the leader of this band of heroes. But he too, like Arthur doesn’t actually play that major, a role in many of the stories. It’s really the other characters who take the central roles in the story. So he’s more of a leader figure someone in the background. But we do have this story about him in his about his fan in his youth, and about how he came into his own. And it has to do with, he’s still in hiding from his enemies. He’s still a very young man or a boy. And he is helping a poet who is waiting for a salmon to come down the Boyne River, which has been prophesied as the salmon which once this poet eats this salmon, he will have all the knowledge that a poet would wish to have

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  21:45

Power Food

Dr Nagy  21:46

And BrainFood too, It’s fish, right. And of course, I read salmon is delicious. So the salmon finally arrives in the public knows this is it. So he catches it, he’s fishing and he catches it. And he gives it to His servant who happens to be Finn at the time still incognito, to cook it for him. And that’s the big mistake.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  22:07

I know it sounds like Finn might eat it.

Dr Nagy  22:09

Well he doesn’t he doesn’t eat it. But the the poet says, I want you to cook this so that it is absolutely perfect while finished cooking it this blister and he’s cooking it on a spit. This blister emerges on the side of the salmon. And he thinks all without blister. My master will say that this is not a perfectly cooked fish. So he presses his thumb down on it and pressing his thumb down on the blister. The hot juice inside, goes on to his thumb and burns it. So he does what many of us might do in that kind of situation. He puts it in his mouth. And by so doing he ingests that essence of knowledge, which was  contained in the fish  That was supposed to go to the Poet that was supposed to go to the poet. Now in this earliest telling of the story, which is from the 12th century, the poet is actually a very good sport. And he says to Finn whose name is sort of not yet Finn. He says to him, Well, you must be the one that the prophecy was about. So why don’t you take my name which happens to be Finn.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  23:16

Ah ha.

Dr Nagy  23:17

So this is the story of how Finn obtained the special wisdom, how he became a master poet, and also how he acquired the name Finn. In later tellings of the story that we have from oral tradition. It’s not really a poet anymore. It’s a giant for whom he’s cooking this fish and boys, the giant mad he tries to, to capture a fan who realizes what’s happening and runs away. But of course, Finn succeeds in killing the giant and maintaining possession of this wisdom. So he’s a hero, who is a poet, and possessor of knowledge, but he’s also a warrior. He’s also a leader, he’s also a hunter. He’s also a lover. He’s a very complex figure. And my first book, The Wisdom of the Outlaw, was essentially about that particular story, and about how that particular story and Other Stories having to do with this hero and cooking reverberate throughout the whole cycle of stories that developed in later medieval Irish literature, and also are still to be found in the oral tradition of Irish storytellers. Probably still today. This is a character who is very well known in modern popular culture In Ireland, and there still are storytellers who are telling stories about this character. A lot of them have to do with food, with his special thumb of knowledge. By the way, he he activates this knowledge by chewing his thumb.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  24:40

Hmm. I wonder what you think about thinking about your own life as a fairy tale. And I was thinking it you started with your mom and your grandmother’s cooking and you’re actually living in your house where you grew up, and traveled to Harvard at 16 going to college, and now you’re traveling to Harvard, as a Celtic chair and teaching at the same institution, and I wonder, do you sometimes think about that like as a full circles fairy tale, in a way,

Dr Nagy  25:14

In many folktales, the hero or heroine does go back home more so in the case of heroes than in the case of heroines, because in so many cultures, for women, when they are married and live happily ever after, have to do so in the homes of their in laws, or in the homes of their of their husbands. And that connection with home, with their own home and their own childhood is not maintained or cannot be maintained as much. But in many, many stories, especially the youngest son, goes back home, and then takes over the kingdom.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  25:50

Are you the youngest?

Dr Nagy  25:51

I am the youngest of four boys. But I have some pretty intense competition, because I have two brothers who are also academics, they’re both professors. And one of them is actually at Harvard. And one of the great things about going back home, so to speak, is the chance to have even more of a connection with my brothers than I had when I was living in California. It’s it’s also … there’s a lot of competition there. Because especially the our my oldest brother, Gregory, who is a humorist, and a classicist, he is just remarkable. And he, he, he’s, he’s considerably older than I am. And he was very much like a father figure to me. And I, when I say he taught me everything I know, it’s not an exaggeration, he really was a very, very good mentor to me growing up, and you just can’t help doing that of comparing yourself and comparing your work to that of your older siblings.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  26:47

You never grow out of it, huh?

Dr Nagy  26:48

And brother number two, brother number two Blaze, he also is a classicist, and he’s now retired. But there are two, it’s just a very looming figure in my life, and someone who has been both a role model but also someone by to measure yourself and to measure your own success by this wonderful term, we use nostalgia, which originated as a medical term. And it means in Greek pain having to do with home, specifically with leaving home. And in the early modern period, this was used by physicians as a way of as a diagnosis for a problem that young people would have when they left home for work or for various reasons. And they missed their families, they missed their place where they grew up, and so forth. And I think even well, into the 19th century, this was considered to be a medical condition, which would require medical attention. And one of the earliest doctors to write about this said that one good cure is to have them sing the folk songs of where they came from. That will, that will comfort them, and make them think about home as being more immediate than it seems to be. But the funny thing about the word nostalgia is the way that we use it now in in current times, and have been using it for several decades, is that what you’re missing is not so much home, but the past. And of course, home does have to do with the past, we can go to Wizard of Oz, or any number of Twilight Zone episodes and see how that operates is that you’re you’re not just missing the people, you’re not just missing the place. You’re also missing that time, and you’re developing this romantic sense of the good old days. And you sort of want to go back into the good old days. And I would say that one lesson that we learned from both the film material we’ve been talking about from Ireland, but in general from from folklore is that it is important to maintain some connection with home, and home in all three senses of of people, place and time. I as a person who deals primarily with medieval culture, I don’t think of that as putting me out of touch with the modern times at all. I think I think of it as in effect going back home, and bringing things into the present which we may have forgotten, or which we can use be reminded of it also, is a way of vindicating the past which we sometimes one of the things I really hate is when people talk about something being from the Middle Ages, as if that were something horrible. And the Middle Ages had wonderful things about it as well as terrible things about it. And the same can be said about modern times. And we have we have much to learn about the Middle Ages and we can apply that knowledge to what we what we have today in our world. So that’s in a way, going home in a more broad sense, and a way of going home that at least for me justifies what I do and makes what I do seem to me and I hope to others as well. very important. What you mentioned about Finn and value of putting the value of poet and knowledge in somebody who’s also a fierce warrior, we could learn a lot from that. In our day and age, I also have reminiscent of the comedies that come around about when people transplant people from the Middle Ages time to now, and I don’t know if you ever saw the movie Late Visitor, where they have all this food in their mouth and, and their habits, you know, grabbing the mutton and eating it by hand. So, you know, the, the, the customs of the time, mostly related to food actually, are quick can be quite comedic compared to ours. But I’m sure if we had to go back, if we went back and brought our food, you know, habits to the medieval time, they would probably find it like extraordinary that we pour water in a cup, and it has all this sort of synthetic food to eat every day at lunchtime, or whatever it might be. Have you thought about those kinds of

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  29:58

Well we’re still using too much sugar? Yeah, that’s right, which was also characteristic of wealthier diet in the Middle Ages, because sugar was a very valuable import. So you would be using it just to show off the fact that you have the wherewithal to obtain this precious import from afar. Though I suspect they also had beet sugar. But of course, cane sugar would be the kind of sugar you would want to have. So yeah, I think I think we could we could find some things in common. Maybe more of us are vegetarians today. But roasted meat is still something that’s very popular today, and certainly was popular back then. Yeah. And the eating habits too, I think are interesting comparison as well like how people ate, then versus now is there any sort of reference to that in the work you’ve done?

Dr Nagy  31:57

There isn’t much sense of forks. Though there though there is this fascinating implement known as a flesh fork, or that’s how the word is translated, which is in fact a very old, it goes back to a very old indo European root. Celtic languages, including Irish are part of the larger family of languages known as indo European, and indo European languages are attested as early as maybe even the second millennium BCE. And so there’s this word in Irish, which describes an implement that you use to plunge it into a cauldron of boiling meat, you fish out a piece of meat with it. And there are some traditions according to which you only have one shot at the cauldron. So go with the flesh fork, that’s what you’ve got. And, and that, in fact, reflects upon your heroic nature, or the lack of a heroic nature, depending on what you what you can get out of the cauldron. But the knives are important spoons are also important. And we and we see references to those and there might also be, I don’t – there was eating with hands, there were implements that you would use and of course, the love of vessels, and various kinds of vessels in which to drink out of which to drink was also very much appreciated.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  33:18

So I think the end this with like, the fact that you have this amazing amount of knowledge regarding our world and worlds before it. And from the alternate meaning of bread rising and Celtic passages to the Latin origins of words, and their meanings tied with food. What is your one favorite lesson to teach about food?

Dr Nagy  33:37

Well, one lesson I would impart, which is actually something that was brought to mind this morning with my wife, Martha. We were we were eating at McDonald’s, I have to confess. But we were in a hurry. And she was reminiscing about a novel by Louisa May Alcott, the great American writer in the 19th century, Eight Cousins. And she was wondering about this passage where the heroine meets her cousins who are out there in the Midwest. And their mother refers to the boys is very healthy. And I think healthy there in the sense of not just healthy, but also very lively as young young people can be, and she says, because they’re so healthy, there’s no hot bread, and no fried food for them. And she was wondering about that and thinking whether this was a reflection of Louisa May Alcott or her father Bronson’s eating habits, Bronson Alcott was very much caught up in fads. In the 19th century, some of them involving food, and the idea and actually how contemporary that sounds you shouldn’t eat too many carbs and things that would raise your cholesterol level. But my conjecture was is that this may be a reference to a very common idea we see in many cultures, where children are thought to be very hot in their nature and in their fluids. And so if if you want to keep them from becoming too difficult, you try to cool them down, you give them cold foods as opposed to hot foods. So then maybe that’s being reflected in this curious comment by a character in a mid 19th century American novel. So these attitudes about about food and about good foods and bad foods and so forth, very often are plugging into other important idealogical concepts such as what is a child? And what constitutes the nature of childhood? And how do you get how do you cook, children. And you’ll notice in that case, there’s this the idea that actually children are already cooking themselves, because they’re so hot. And so you don’t want this to over. You don’t want it to overflow and you don’t want them to be burnt, burnt out before their time. So these kinds of assumptions, so often play a role in literature and oral tradition, still very much in our own time, it’s so fascinating to see how, again, talking with students and talking about students in their various ethnic backgrounds, and to see what kinds of concepts there are about food, I wouldn’t go so far as to say as they’re teaching us lessons, I always hate that when we talk about folklore, or when we talk about culture as if it were some gigantic class in which we’re being taught things, no offense to us as academics. But still, there is a way in which there are these messages being put out there for us to maybe on some subconscious, or even unconscious level to pick up on that can affect our behavior, it can affect our Arctic,

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  36:44

I feel that you’ve given me a perspective about food that will actually enhance the work I do here at UCLA with students because all these students are coming from so many different cultures, and storytelling cultures. And it sounds based on what you’ve just shared with me how much food is intertwined in those stories. And that really will change or, or create different perspectives on food, and how you deal with it and how you even manage to cook it or not cook it or, and what it means to people. And that might actually even ultimately help people’s nostalgia, when they come to school to be less nostalgic, because they might be less homesick if they have the foods that remind them of home.

Dr Nagy  37:33

That’s all. That’s all wonderful.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  37:35

Any anything else you’d like to add? Before we wrap up?

Dr Nagy  37:38

It’s nice the way this conversation is gone. Because the two favorite courses I’m teaching one is what is called Food and Fantasy, which I’ll be teaching at UCLA again. In fact, in the spring,  Ooh, how exciting. Oh, for undergrads, or graduates,  Undergraduates, but graduate students are of course, of course welcome.  And the other favorite course is The Art of Storytelling.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  38:02

So are you teaching that here

Dr Nagy  38:03

These things are coming together. No, no, that one that one’s actually newer, and I’m teaching that for the first time at Harvard?

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  38:10

Oh, you make that an online course I’d like to take that  You are kind. The Art of Storytelling. I do. I really love

Dr Nagy  38:18

You may take my course if I may take your courses.

Dr.  Wendy Slusser  38:23

And I’m going to share with you some of the stories my grandfather wrote down about his experiences, one of which is about a thunder mug. And we’ll leave it at that for next time. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Semel HCI  38:41

Thank you again for joining us. For more information about today’s episode, visit our website@healthy.ucla.edu backslash live well podcasts. today’s podcast was brought to you by the SEMO healthy campus initiative Center at UCLA. To stay up to date with our episode, subscribe to UCLA live well on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Leave us a rating to tell us how we’re doing and if you think you know the perfect person for us to interview next. Please tweet your idea to us at healthy UCLA. Have a wonderful rest of your day. And we hope you join us for our next episode as we explore new perspectives on health and well being.

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