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Fulbright And Food


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Hey there. So I'm thinking of applying for a Fulbright Grant. Grants are offered for college seniors (me), and may be applied to a variety of places. Being a huge food dork and an aspirant food writer, I have the notion of applying for a grant to write about food.

The details are slightly murkier. I am extremely interested in the more unusual aspects of Asian cuisine, especially those that don't recieve much attention in the US mainstream. As a food blogger, I'd like to apply my (debatable) journalism skills to documenting interesting food traditions and preparations in an engaging (one would hope) way. Rather like compiling a live and conversationally oriented travel guide.

I spent the spring of 2008 in India and fell in love with the cuisine. I was particularly smitted by the non-Mughal food, the stuff I'd never heard of. Kerala, Andra, Chino-Indian food, Vedic cuisine, Goan food - it seems to be stuff that pretty rarely permeates the US Indian food scene. It's not even that it's particularly odd stuff, and I would like to produce an easily-approachable document or guide to these foods. So that might be a good avenue for a project to take. (I personally believe that Keralan food would be a huge hit for the American palate if some more restaurants were opened...)

I am also extremely interested in the Muslim cuisine of China and the seafoods of Hong Kong and Southern China, but as my Mandarin and Cantonese is excrecable, that would be a more difficult task to pursue.

A Fulbright grant requires an affilation with an academic institution, at least if one wishes to pursue research (which I suppose I would be doing, in a delicious way). I have sent out some feeler emails to a few Indian universities but am not really sure where exactly the gastronomical illuminati of the subcontinent hang out. If anyone knows...

I emphasize that I am a 21 year old rube, with little formal gastronomical training other then a decent amount of rough overseas travel and a willingness to eat anything that does not eat me first.

Would love it if anyone could provide ideas or experience with pursuing food-related project grants. Am I nuts? Is there anything the food community might find valuable or a worthwhile place to direct my efforts?

Thank you!

The Fulbright program in question:


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In my experience (I've been an adjunct professor at Brown U for over a decade) I've found that the Fulbright folks want to make sure that you're not doing armchair anthropology, but that you're grounding any project in real scholarship. This may be obvious to you -- forgive me if so -- but that means in this case digging a lot deeper than the latest issue of "Gastronomica," and instead researching the various histories, diasporas, and meanings of foodways, linking what sounds like a fascinating project to specific scholarly conversations in cultural anthropology, food studies, and so on.

And, since you asked, I'll share a tip that advisees have told me is invaluable. Look for unexplained, evaluative abstractions in your writing: here, the big one is "interested/ing." That's where you have a lot of work to do. What does "interesting" mean exactly? What exactly about this food interests you? What exactly would interest the Fulbright committees?

In short, the Fulbright committees (both at your local uni and at national) need to be convinced that you're the last thing from a rube. :wink:

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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As a former Fulbright scholar (I spent a lovely year in Spain), I would add to the above comments that you have to make a convincing argument for why you need to go abroad to do your specific project: Why do you need to go live in the host country to do what you want to do? And once you're there, how are you doing to do what you say you're going to do?

You need to convince the review committees that you have a viable workplan once you are there, and show how you will undertake your proposed research. Affiliation with academic institutions in the host country shows that you have done some homework and have contacts who can help you. I would have had a really tough time if I didn't have the contacts I had.

Make sure your proposal is focused and that you really articulate why what you are interested in matters (and it doesn't hurt to toss in a bit of academic jargon here and there). So, instead of "I would like to produce an easily-approachable document or guide to these foods", you might shift to something like "I plan to investigate the preservation of regional foodways in [xx] regions of India in the face of globalization and cultural homogenization." Your end product could still be that "easily approachable document", but you have to explain why you should be given a grant to go produce it.

That's my 2 cents ...


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