Culinary or Anthropology? Why not both?

Okay, I'm in a career crisis.  Lately, I have been wanting to really involve myself in professional anthropology.  By professional, I mean academics  and scholarship.  I feel it would be regretful in my part if I would not try.  I'm done with my being a copyleftist (not a slave  to copyrights) and literary anarchist (not believing in conventions in academic writing).  I've done it, and it has brought me nothing and to nowhere.  Maybe it's time to humble myself and conform.

Culinary is interesting, but I have found out that  making souffle or searing foie gras everyday is turning me into a mindless robot that breathes.  I miss the freedom in thinking or the challenge in wondering.  I'm not free at all to  add cilantro in something  french or shrimp paste in something Italian.  I think I'm in a wrong field of professional endeavor.  Since I'm a chef who has an academic background and interest in anthropology, maybe I can do both and lead a fulfilling life.

I'm looking to go back to graduate school in Europe-- anywhere in Europe.  American universities are expensive, stingy, and yes, still "postmodern," "poststructuralist," and "postcolonial."  I also need to find a "cheffing" job first, so I can support my studies.  Maybe I can work at a university dining for free tuition fees.  I'm interested in the combination of anthropology, sociology, economics, development, psychology, biology, mathematics, and neuroscience to come up with a study about corruption that can be actually applied from a micro to a macro-scale to lessen or eradicate corruption. It will be a life-long project.

Europe also makes sense because it's tough to study corruption in the US, fieldwork-wise, since it's not really an alarming phenomenon here.  A comparative study between Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe sounds interesting.  Besides, several grants from financial and governmental institutions are given to study corruption in those regions mentioned.  I know I'm not a professor material, so I'm eyeing to involve myself in applied development and public policy instead. 

Now, do you have any pieces of advice regarding my plans and interests or recommendations on the right European universities I should look into, considering my academic/professional goal?  I hope you do.  Thanks  a bunch!  

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Comment by Valerie Feria Isacks on February 19, 2012 at 1:57am
Comment by John McCreery on February 18, 2012 at 4:24pm
With a tip of the hat to Julie Krueger on Lit-Ideas.

Each night you come home with five continents on your hands:
garlic, olive oil, saffron, anise, coriander, tea,
your fingernails blackened with a marjoram and thyme.
Sometimes the zucchini's flesh seems like a fish-steak,
cut into neat filets, or the salt-rubbed eggplant
yields not bitter water, but dark mystery.
You cut everything into bits.
No core, no kernel, no seed is scared: you cut
onions for hours and do not cry,
cut them to thin transparencies, the red ones
spreading before you like fallen flowers;
you cut scallions from white to green, you cut
radishes, apples, broccoli, you cut oranges, watercress,
romaine, you cut your fingers, you cut and cut
beyond the heart of things, where
nothing remains, and you cut that too, scoring coup
on the butcherblock, leaving your mark,
when you go 
your feet are as pounded as brioche dough.

"Cook" by Jane Hirshfield, from Of Gravity and Angels. © Wesleyan University Press, 1988.
Comment by M Izabel on February 14, 2012 at 11:33pm

Thanks, John and Francine.

No, I don't have an EU citizenship.  I am a citizen of my country and of the US.  I still have contacts with  my old classmates back home.  They seem to be enjoying the perks of their  PhD's earned in Europe.  Most of them told me the multidisciplinary nature of anthropology they teach there.  One classmate did education, anthropology, and psychology, although her program was in social anthropology.  She is now into first language to be used in primary schools in  my country to speed up intellectual development among toddlers and kids.  This is the kind of study I so want-- the one that is actually useful and can be implemented. Also, Asians are not covered by affirmative action here; thus they incur huge student loans. Imagine while looking  for a grant to fund your research/dissertation after finishing four years of intense study, you are also burdened by your monthly loan payment.  I want to avoid that.  It seems British schools are very giving to Asian and developing countries these days.  One quick look on the Net, I can easily find such scholarships.   Thanks again. 

Comment by Francine Barone on February 14, 2012 at 1:06am

Hi M,

If you enjoy the kitchen, but are just feeling in a rut creatively, maybe it would be worth your while to pursue a more creative genre of cooking. There are amazing establishments doing exceptional things with food all around the world. The US is no exception, with molecular gastronomy, fusion food, burgeoning street food culture and other niches worthy of all kinds of anthropological attention. Just being a sous chef in a more creative kitchen might give you the inspiration you need. The anthropology of food is an option!

Your choice to go to a European university is interesting. Do you hold EU citizenship? I ask because, firstly, it can be debated that grad school in Europe is cheaper. This depends on your funding path and course duration, but if you were self-funded, I would say the fees end up about the same. Grad funding in Europe is harder to come by unless you're a citizen and can apply through a research council. American universities have bigger budgets, more grants and scholarships, so I'm not sure in what way they present themselves as stingier than their European counterparts. Secondly, you mention working in lieu of tuition fees. From my experience, this is a more likely scenario at an American university, where tuition remission for employees can amount to 100% of tuition fees. Compare this with my uni in the UK that offered (I think) 25% and only for its full-time staff who had put in some years of service.

Where it sounds like you're stuck is that you see cooking as practical career that's paying your bills, but anthropology as a calling. If that's the case, maybe it's time to write up a proposal for your corruption studies and shop it around to various universities seeking funding. Once you have your financial mise en place, the options become clearer and you can be more decisive.

On the pessimistic side, I'm not sure that academia is the direction to turn if you want to avoid becoming a mindless robot that breathes, except I hear the breathing is optional.

Comment by John McCreery on February 9, 2012 at 8:55pm

M. I'm no help at all when it comes to European universities. Probably totally beside the point, but have you read Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential?  You might also be interested in tracking down some of the people involved in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies fifth annual gender conference (2007) Men, Women and Food

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