Nov. 17, 2006
By Jody Grenert
Take a batch of nutritional knowhow, add a dash of history, top it off with a sumptuous Thanksgiving feast and you have the recipe for a unique Ohio University course.
Titled "Thomas Jefferson: Gardener and Gastronome," the class explored two loves of the Founding Father and beloved Virginian – growing things and eating them.
For students, the best part was being able to devour their class work, especially the early Thanksgiving feast they prepared in mid-November that included turkey, pumpkin bisque and corn bread.
"Lewis and Clark week was a hit, too," said course creator David Holben, associate professor of food, nutrition and hospitality in the School of Human and Consumer Sciences. The fare that week included venison and stewed berry compote.
The course, which concluded at the close of the fall term this week, was the result of a University Professor Award that Holben received in the spring. As part of the award, he was permitted to design and teach a course of his own choosing this year. So he decided to blend together his own loves of gardening and food – along with an interest in exploring history as a teaching tool for nutrition – and voila!
The class drew an array of students majoring in everything from nutrition to history to English, Holben said. Students learned about Jefferson's role as a landscape architect, his place in food history, and the typical diet of the third U.S. president, his guests and even his slaves.
Though the students enjoyed most of the Jefferson-inspired meals they whipped up, Holben said, one dish got a decided thumbs-down.
"We made okra soup one week – that didn’t go over so well."
Jody Grenert is the communications director with Ohio University College of Health and Human Services.