hold academic knowledge - want to expand to practical knowledge!
I am a current Master's student. My philosophy thesis deals with food academically (political philosophy, ethics, and environmental concerns). I will be completing my MA this spring and plan to take the next year off. I feel that I possess a fair amount of academic knowledge with regard to food but hope to spend my year off expanding my practical, physical, and intimate knowledge with regard to food.
This is where I hope that you chowhounds can help. I am looking for opportunities, information, ideas, and possibilities to expand this type of food knowledge.
For example, I have found an opportunity in which I could cook for individuals who are building a trail in Montana. I have found an Anarchist University in which I could teach a course about food. I have found soup kitchens to volunteer at.
Anything related to food I want to hear about! :)
(I am Canadian.)
cierah - you will never get your stated wish - practical knowledge - without getting your hands dirty. For practical information, you must cook. Buying food properly, knowing about growing conditions, food history for specific regions - all the subjects you may have touched in academia will have meaning when you are directly involved. Studying plant rotation or how to properly saute a filet pales when compared to actually doing it.
Travel plays a major role in this learning process. It couldn't hurt to begin cooking locally but you must consider going to places that make your heart sing when you think about what it might be like to live there. Please do not think this is an invitation to tuck up in a well-fitted condo in some major foreign city, enjoying 'la vie en rose'. Getting down 'n dirty in a small town/s, living (on what we used to call) "the economy" and getting hands-on experience from people whose food traditions are tightly woven into their sinews will give you what you seek. Good luck on your adventure.
PS - I speak from experience; academia first, dirty hands second. I prefer the second half.
The great thing about food is that you're able to practice making it three times a day! Clearly this is basic advice, but make sure you take as many opportunities as possible to cook for yourself.
It may be helpful if you have some more information about your goals in learning about food practically. Do you want to observe the agricultural process at a local farm? Do you want to hunt and prepare your own food? Do you want to bake? Do you want to learn the traditional food of a specific area? Your goals will inform how you spend your year.
How are you funding this year off? If you don't have savings for it, you may consider working in a professional kitchen, at a farm, at a vineyard, or similar food-related job. There are many ways to learn about food, it's up to you to find out what route is worthwhile and figure out how to pursue that goal.