Alumna Eliza Martin ’11 returned to DeSales University on February 20, 2017, to speak at Solidarity Mondays in McShea, a monthly event that aims to show students what it means to be a part of one human family.
After graduating from DeSales, Martin moved to New York City, where she worked her way up from bartending to working in the kitchen. Realizing that this was what she was passionate about, Martin enrolled in culinary school.
From there, her experiences have included working for Saveur food magazine, participating in the James Beard Foundation Women in Culinary Leadership Program, working in an Indian-Latin American fusion restaurant, teaching the homeless how to become line cooks, teaching in a culinary school for children, founding both a catering company and an indoor farming company, and becoming an executive chef in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco.
Martin (pictured right, in apron, with members of the DeSales University Peers Advising Counseling Educating [PACE] team) told the audience that the best way that she expresses her love for other people is by cooking for them.
“We can express our love for others by nurturing them through this magical thing called food,” said Martin. “Solidarity just means welcoming anybody from a different culture, different race, different gender, you name it, and making them feel warm and welcome… My suggestion is, let’s try to do that through food.”
Not only did Martin stress the importance of solidarity with others, but she also pointed out the importance of having solidarity with one’s self. She illustrated how neglected this solidarity with self was by asking how many people in the room that day had told themselves that they loved themselves; no one raised their hands.
“You can start loving yourself a little bit more by getting some more of those healthful good foods into your body,” said Martin.
Healthy eating, Martin said, involves having less fats and sugars in one’s diet and more fiber and protein. Before Martin began her presentation, snacks were available for students to sample, including savory popcorn with almonds and quinoa, cold Asian noodle salad with broccoli and peppers, and chocolate chip cookie dough made from organic peanut butter and chickpeas.
During the presentation, she also showed the audience how to make caprese skewers and curried chicken. She taught the audience introductory knife skills and talked about the nutritive properties of the foods she included in her recipes.
After the cooking was over, Martin asked the audience to pass along the knowledge about food and cooking that they had gained that night, recalling the phrase, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man how to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”
“When I graduated from college, I could not name five of my friends who could cook for themselves, and I moved to New York City and had to learn how to cook for the very first time,” said Martin. “You don’t necessarily have to teach them a skill set. You can introduce a food from your family that gets them excited about eating healthily too.”
Martin then issued a challenge for the month of March to host dinner parties on campus in which each student in attendance brings a food that has been a part of their family and enjoys it with their friends. Students can upload photos to social media using the hashtag #DAWGFood, and tag Eliza Martin at the handle @elizagracegirl. The winner will receive a prize at the end of the month.
“I want you to be able to feel confident and empowered, the way that I first felt when I started cooking for myself. I was actually able to feed my being, which is an incredible experience,” said Martin.
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