Friday, February 5, 2010

How practical is a 100 mile diet?

The past few weeks have disappeared into a blur after 3 weeks of juggling work, study and life.

Monday, 18th January saw the start of my Dissertation preparation course. Over two weeks, we were to work through daily exercises to undertand what a Master thesis was, what research methodolgies could be used, how to scope one out and the mechanics of writing a thesis (timelines, plagarism, editing etc). At the end of the course, the goal was to have a worked up thesis outline and timeline so that the university could seek out a supervisor.

I actually did the dissertation course last year as I had intended to start mid 2009 after completing my coursework material. With six months until it all became real, it was difficult to really engage with the process and my topic idea was too big and expansive that I struggled to scope it. The unweldy topic and six months of procastination while I finished my coursework meant that by mid year I had lost momentum and the dissertation idea and outline fizzed away to nothing.

Six months of no study (and too much work) coupled with a well timed University residential and the Australian symposium of gastronomy in Adelaide provided the motivation to get re-engaged with the dissertation. Ten days in Adelaide during a mid November heat wave spawned my dreams and ideas.

The residential (the last ever such residential for the current MA (gastronomy) program) saw 14 students suffer the daily hardships of gastronomes with trips to farmers markets, the Baroosa (cheese, wine and Maggie Beer's), field trips to delis, chocolate factories and more wineries and cheese producers. With varying backgrounds and ages, everyone had different takes on the world of food and wine. There were a few serious study sessions with time with the Gastronomy department librarian and much talk of thesis topics and process as being online students the chance to get face to face time with lecturers and librarians is a rare treat.

After residential, we rolled into the 19th Australian symposium of Gastronomy being held in Adelaide on the occasion of 25th anniversary of the 1st Australian symposium. The theme was "Economy" given the year that 2009 with the doom and gloom of the global financial crisis. The theme worked perfectly for me as I have already worked out that my thesis topic had to have a commercial angle to it. The symposium held at the Australian wine centre was attended by many familar faces and so many keen foodies with interesting backgrounds. The weekend was spent listening to interesting papers (some historical, others political, lots of social critique), meeting interesting people and enjoying good food and wine. The papers provided many thesis ideas and my notebook of the weekend was filled with scribbles of ideas, leads to follow up, books I needed to read and things to research. After the 10 days in Adelaide, I was clear that my thesis was going to focus on local food but still needed to work out exactly.

Over December and the holiday season, the thesis idea has gestated and germinated into something quite tangible. How practical is a 100 mile diet to follow from Brisbane? is 100 miles the appropriate distance ? what do we need to do to encourage more people to eat locally sourced food? do producers actually want to provide food locally or is there more money elsewhere?

Over the past three weeks, I have enjoyed working through the process of scoping my thesis. I have marvelled at watching the process online as my fellow students develop their ideas. The encouragement I have received from them and the program has been great. The biggest surprise has been from workmates (mainly IT types stuck in a mining company) who originally take an interest out of politeness and then get really engaged in the topic. Some began sending me websites and articles as they see them. Others offering to read the thesis as it develops.

Tonight, I got confirmation that my thesis outline has been accepted and that my supervisor has been appointed. Fortunately they are local, have a keen interest in the topic and their background will be a good balance to my overly commercial background and skill base.

So now the fun begins. 18,000 words by end of  November. All things going well, I will finish my thesis in time for my birthday and the end of the year will be celebrated with the completion of the MA(Gastronomy).

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