I am conducting my participatory-observation at City Market, Onion River Co-op in downtown Burlington, VT. This community-owned food cooperative is dedicated to supporting the local economy and strengthening the local food system. Since it is member-owned, the profits generated by co-op members are returned in the profitable years through a patronage refund program.

Every week, City Market offers a variety of cooking classes that I will attend as often as possible. When I am not able to attend classes, I will sit in the café area of City Market to conduct my observations. Attending the cooking classes will require me to experience and record events that occur in this social setting, and while the types of activities that I will perform will vary depending on the particular cooking class, I can expect that certain activities will remain constant (introductions, washing hands, preparing and cooking food, observing others prepare and cook food, clean-up, etc.) Other activities will be unexpected and perhaps unfamiliar. The general purpose of engaging in these activities through participatory-observation is to be able to describe and interpret the observable relationships between social practices and systems of meaning, based upon “firsthand experience and exploration” of a particular cultural setting (Lindlof, 134). In this case. the setting will be City Market. By attending cooking classes I will have the opportunity to observe the group dynamics that exist in this particular social setting, watch how group members interact with one another and with their food. Furthermore, as a part of this social setting I will have the opportunity to ask questions, form relationships with attendees, interpret information and turn my field notes into meaningful observations about food and health in the context of City Market cooking classes.

Overall, I will use cooking as a methodology to explore issues related to food and health, as well as using cooking as a method of inquiry. I will learn both through my participation and the uses to which I apply the knowledge and more importantly, the meaning that I gain from my field notes.

*Update: I am now a Member Worker at City Market and will also conduct observations by working in the Bulk and Grocery Departments, as well as hopefully assisting with a Demo.


One Comment on “Context”

  1. Jennifer Harris
    March 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    All the information posted was very informative. Seems to me that it has become increasingly important to REALLY read labels on all food that is processed for the safety of our health. We as human beings have choices to make regarding how we live our lives, but what about the people who can’t afford organic and the uneducated? What about schools, hospitals, retirement homes and the general public that work incredible hours and can only make the time to serve fast food to their families? The way we live our lives as a whole needs to be revamped. Let’s stop with the fast food, stop with the chemicals that make the apples red and shiny, let’s slow down and take a deep breath. You talk about a womens role, i.e preparing food for her family. When I was growing up, yes it was my Mom who did the cooking except for the summer BBQ. Meals centered around family gathering, socializing and relaxing with people. This hardly happens anymore:(

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