Class Reflections: Literature and Food

27 Aug

As I’m sitting here in my school’s newspaper room, I’ve decided that I’m going to share a story with you. I already studied for my AP Chemistry “mini test” based on the vodcast so I think I can take a break. Besides balancing equations and working with chemical formulas is a bit too much this early in the morning.

So yesterday in my Literature and Science class – previously known as the Bioethics class – my teacher asked us an insightful question.

Do you read literature because it is a means to an end or an end unto itself?

At first, everyone in the class was unsure of what she meant. “A means to an end” is something we’ve all heard before but “an end unto itself” – what did that mean?

I suppose my teacher knew that this question would confuse all of us so she asked a boy in the class, “Why do you eat?” And he replied, “Because I’m hungry.” Another girl responded that she needed nutrition. Someone else said “Because my parents tell me to.”

These were all legitimate answers, but when my turn came, I responded (something along the lines of): “I enjoy eating especially when it’s a type of food that I’ve never tried before. Sometimes the dishes look interesting and so I just can’t wait to try it”.

My best friend, Michelle, who was standing next to me just smiled and whispered, “You’re such a foodie!” I  smiled back.

But apparently, I helped the teacher make her point as she said that my response would fall under the category of “Living to Eat” while the other answers would fall under the category of “Eating to Live”. She said there was nothing wrong with either category.

And then she said that “Eating to Live” was like “a means to an end” whereas “Living to Eat” was like “an end unto itself”. That’s when her previous question finally made sense.

Seeing the clarity in our eyes, my teacher smiled and then rephrased the question,

“So, is literature read to learn something or is it read for pleasure and then in the process, we learn something?”

As for myself, I think I read most literature because I am told to in school, but I end up taking more out of it than I expected. Yet, like with Ann Mah’s Kitchen Chinese, I do read for pleasure too. Like my teacher said about the food categories, there’s nothing wrong with either.

So now I ask you the same two questions:

Is literature a means to an end or an end unto itself?

(And the more fun one)

Do you eat to live or live to eat?

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