For my STEP signature project, I traveled to Boston, Massachusetts for a week, studied the interactions between Boston’s history, diverse cultures and cuisine, and created video blogs about my experiences. Following the trip, I developed four dishes inspired by my research, and shared them with family and friends at a tasting.
Throughout this project, I learned a great deal about myself. When I started planning my trip, I had only a basic knowledge of travel, and was not confident that I would be able to format a trip that would be worthwhile and achievable for me. I was also very shy and anxious about traveling to a place that I had never been before. However, now that I have accomplished a trip, I am excited to travel more in the future and am confident that I can navigate new places and experiences in the future. I am also more confident in my ability to explain my experiences to other people, not only in words, but also through creative food.
Not only did my view of myself change during my project, but my view of Boston, and of its food scene, changed as well. I really did not know what to expect before I got to Boston. I knew it was a larger city than Columbus, there would be seafood there, and that they have many different cultures represented in cuisine there However, I did not know how it would feel to be there, how the food would taste, how the people would act towards me, and other aspects of the overall culture of Boston. Coming out of the trip, I have an overall positive impression of Boston, the people who live there, and the food they make. I have a more complete picture of Boston, which encourages me to want to go back to visit again.
Many of the events that sparked the transformation in myself to be able to plan a trip involved doing things for the first time. Since it was my first time flying, I learned how to book a flight, how to pack the correct sized bags, and how to navigate an airport. I also learned how to pick a safe Airbnb for the first time, as I had only ever stayed at family residences and hotels on previous trips. I learned how to navigate a more complex public transport system than we have in Columbus. I did this all with guidance from my project advisor, who is an avid traveler, as well as from family members. These experiences and learning opportunities allowed me to grow my confidence and step out of my comfort zone with a safety net in case anything went wrong.
My increased ability to explain my experiences well stemmed from my new experiences in making dishes for the tasting, as well as the video blogs. During my project, I took a class on photography and video editing, which strengthened my ability to tell the story of my trip. I also learned experientially how long editing takes, and how to budget my time in order to get the video blogs completed on time. I also practiced explaining my trip through the dishes I made for the tasting. Having complete creative control over developing food for a test market was a great exercise in problem solving. Many of the people who attended had not been to Boston, and so I needed to take new flavors and concepts from my trip and combine them with more familiar ones in order to make dishes that my guests would find both interesting and delicious.
My outlook of Boston was transformed in part by the interactions I had with the people there. All of the people I interviewed were extremely nice and welcoming, and gave me many recommendations of locations to visit while I was there. Meeting with people at different points of the food industry gave me a more complete insight into Boston’s food scene. For example, at Spindler Confections, a small but growing chocolate shop, I learned that many smaller food-based businesses in the area collaborate on products, and often use seasonal and local ingredients. However, in speaking to the manager of the original Regina Pizza location, which is one in a chain of pizzerias, I learned that they do not use local ingredients, but instead have many products made specifically for their chain, in order to keep their products more consistent. Seeing this contrast made me realize that different shops and restaurants prioritize different aspects of their products.
My view of Boston was also changed by the food I was able to experience. During my trip, I explored a wide variety of food from different cultures. Boston, being close to the coast, is well known for their seafood. However, there were so many other aspects of Boston’s food scene that sparked my creativity. An example of this was the tour I took of Chinatown. I knew little about Chinese culture and food going into the tour and was so inspired by the ingredients and cuisine that two out of the 4 dishes I created used elements of my newfound knowledge. Experiences like this, as well as visits to historical food sites, broadened my understanding of how multifaceted Boston’s food scene is.
My shifts in understanding not only of Boston, but also of myself, will be quite useful in my life. I am currently working towards a major in food science. Careers in food science, specifically product development, often involve travel, whether it is relocation to work at a particular center, or to gain ideas for new products. Stepping outside of my comfort zone when it comes to traveling has made me more confident when considering traveling for work or for fun. My practice creating products that bring new and interesting flavors to a particular demographic will also help me in a product development position. Also, my newfound understanding of Boston’s food scene not only makes me want to return at some point to explore more but has also influenced me to want to explore food history and culture in other cities and countries.