Students share their recipes and the stories behind them for unique assignment


The Sociology of Food is a deep dive into the world of food for final-year students in Social Science, especially those in the Child Studies Profile.

“Usually this course involves experiences planting and cooking together and a tour of Mount Royal,” said teacher Anna-Liisa Aunio.

When the shutdown happened March 13, Anna-Liisa had to change her course plans like all the other teachers at Dawson College and around the world.

Food systems

In this advanced sociology course, Anna-Liisa covers food justice, food security and food sovereignty. “At the beginning of the course, the students each adopt a neighbourhood and look at the food systems in that neighbourhood,” she said.

The students consider food systems from production to eating to food waste.

Planting and walking not possible this year

During Earth Week, the students are usually on the rooftop gardens planting seedlings. In the first week of May, the students participate in Jane’s walks to get to know their neighbourhood and connect with the community in honour of community activist and author Jane Jacobs.

Anna-Liisa and her students have grieved what they expected to do both in this course and in life.

Everyone is baking and cooking

“We are reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation,” Anna-Liisa said. “At this point, we should be cooking together. These days everyone is talking about what they are cooking and baking at home. I listened to a podcast about a woman cooking with her grandmother and it gave me an idea.”

Anna-Liisa gave her class an assignment to choose a recipe that they love, take a video or photos preparing it, write a brief post and story about why they love it and share it with the members of their class in an online forum.

Something to share

Anna-Liisa said that many of her students are stressed out and some have jobs working on the frontlines of the pandemic. “They are reasonably worried about a lot of things,” she said. “I wanted to give them an assignment that still fit the course plan and was something to share.

“Food is one of these things we have to consider several times a day. It is healing and comfort. The whole idea of cooking is transformation. I told them that the recipe could be could be a traditional recipe to make with family or something so simple like the perfect piece of buttered cinnamon toast,” she said.

Recipes and their stories

There are so many stories that go along with the recipes, family stories and links to culture. “Food enriches our lives and recipes help us retain and transmit our culture,” she said.

The students really enjoyed the assignment, which almost all have agreed to share with Dawson College and the world.

For her part, Anna-Liisa and her family of four have been enjoying local food from local producers. Some family favourites during the pandemic have included shortbread, chili-spiced salmon, vegetarian butter sauce (like butter chicken but using veggies instead of chicken) and vegetarian chili. Dandelion and milk thistle tea has become a staple.

Last Modified: May 12, 2020