To no surprise I am going to make this speech about food. This semester has been about food for me in so many ways, well really this semester has made me realize that my whole life has been about food, that my world revolves around food. I think my childhood taking place in my parent’s restaurant is to blame. And weirdly enough, here we are in a restaurant, and my parents are here ! I can’t escape it !! But really, comida has presented me with many opportunities to explore, create, learn, discover, and love this semester.
I think my love for food goes much deeper than just the stuff we put in our mouth, well obviously it's important that it tastes good, but I’m much more focused on the experience that food can bring us: the opportunity to sit around a table, to converse, and to share something together.
For example, I was somehow blessed to be in charge of the DUOC lunches every Thursday. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is a lunch put on every Thursday by the gastronomy and tourism students at DUOC. It’s a beautiful 3 course gourmet lunch with wine pairings for each course and the kind of table setting where there are 3 different forks. And we had to speak english because the students were practicing their English. Really I have no idea how I got so lucky. But every thursday I got to sit with three of you guys and enjoy a fancy gourmet meal. A different group every week, it was an amazing way to get to know so many of you, to really sit down and talk for 2 hours. I felt like I was hosting my very own dinner party every Thursday, combining random groups of people to meet and converse over a fancy meal. Even though we were all dressed in our street clothes with our backpacks under our chairs, the white tablecloths and cocktails gave it the semblance of elegance.
Thank you to everyone for sharing a meal with me and for those of you who couldn’t come because of class or another reason, please know that I would’ve loved to sit and share with you. I want to thank you all for being a great group. I feel very comfortable with you all and I am very thankful that we formed such a cohesive, accepting, and loving community. Thank you all for creating a great semester.
Furthermore, meals give us the time to stop our days and pause to re energize our bodies midday or in the case of once, to get our bodies ready for bed. Once. Every gringa I’ve talked to has loved the concept of once, and some even say that it’s something they want to take back to the US with them, to replace dinner all together. I want to thank the host families for introducing us to once. Once is just one of the millions of things we want to thank our host families for, but if I started to list them all we’d be here all night. When doing my host family questionnaire before arriving in Valpo, all I asked for was a family who values food, who share time around the table. And I was placed with Sonia Gallardo and her family in a house that has an empanada fabrica. This means I woke up everyday to the smell of empanadas baking in the oven. This also means that I bought less than 5 empanadas during my time here in Valparaiso because I know where to find the best ones. Everyone in the Gallardo family has the love of food running in their blood. Our relationship formed on conversations surrounding food, my spanish vocabulary has doubled because of it and now I can name every vegetable and fruit in the fería. They showed me endless love through cooking and sobremesa.
So thank you families for nourishing us with food, love, a bed, and a window into chilean culture.
Lastly, food can provide us with experiences to learn. CIEE started an interest group this semester called Club de Comida that took us to a handful of different restaurants in Valpo that demonstrate a different part of Chilean or Porteño culture. All the places, vastly different, from classic chorillana at J. Cruz, pizza at La Riviera, or pescado frito at La Quinta de los Nuñez. Food became a vehicle for discovery, for deepening our understanding of porteño culture. Furthermore, CIEE took us to San Pedro de Atacama where we learned about the unique ingredients of the Atacameños, algarrobo, chañar, and coca leaves. Flavors we had never tasted before and likely won’t ever again unless we return to the Atacama. I’d like to thank CIEE, Gloria, carolina, camila, maria paz, and paulina for opening our eyes and tastebuds to the uniqueness that Chile has to offer.
So thank you all for nourishing me with friendship.
Thank you host families for nourishing us with love.
Thank you CIEE for nourishing our minds.
And thank you Valpo, for your neverending nourishment of pan!
I think I can speak for all of us when I say we are all leaving this country with a full heart and full belly.