I’ve heard the argument that The Hunger Games trilogy is just The Running Man for teenage girls or a direct rip-off of Battle Royale. I guess it could be considered teenage fare (ya know, brutal death scenes and all) and “not original.” However, take a moment and wonder, how many of those youngins would have read The Running Man without an intro to dystopia, via The Hunger Games? Would they have read Battle Royale? Classic dystopian novels like Brave New World or Nineteen Eighty-Four? A Canticle for Leibowitz?
Maybe I’m selling our youth short. Maybe they were planning on reading those books eventually. In college. Or when they’re in their 30s (so when they’re like super old and stuff). But I think The Hunger Games have opened up a whole new world to a younger generation of readers.
With books like the Twilight trilogy floating around, not to mention 50 Shades of Grey (which I can assure you many young girls have gotten their hormoney hands on) it’s good to know there’s an author out there who attempted to go a little deeper than “Should I pick my sparkly boyfriend or my shirtless, jorts boyfriend?”
As an avid Young Adult reader, I know some of that stuff is fantastic. I mean, have you read Jellicoe Road? All of the tears. Still, it doesn’t feature a whole lot of “LOL gonna kill youguys for funsies!” or “LOL gonna execute you for eating an apple!”
Some of those YA books traipse into darker territory (don’t ever, ever read Flowers in the Attic), but not many approach the problem of “Oh crap, if I don’t figure out how to get food, my family and I will freakin’ starve.” That’s a heavy notion. I mean, convincing your parents to let you go to college in New York can be tough*, but starving to death? I think about 99.99999998462% of the world’s population would rather deal with uncooperative parents than feeling your insides cramp up and knowing what it means.
Who knows what the other 0.00000001538% is thinking.
My (kinda roundabout) point is this:
Food is important.
Not just important in that it keeps you alive, but important in that it starts world movements. It incites revolutions. It causes strikes and wars and trade issues. Epic, insane rebellions. Food is so deeply ingrained in our culture, in every culture in every country on every continent, and one could float through life without ever truly grasping that concept. Everyone knows about “Let them eat cake,” but do they know Marie Antoinette never actually said that? Do they understand how the spice trade not only altered the way we cook and eat but caused intense power struggles between nations?
These things have been said before. Anthropological books have been written; blog posts have been published; magazines have run articles. But how many YA novels have been written heavily featuring the subject?
Not a whole darn lot.
So, I see The Hunger Games as something of a learning tool. An easy-access, enoyable learning tool. A book that emphasizes the impact food can have on a society without throwing a thousand percentages and numbers and scientific studies at a young mind that just wants to be entertained.
Seriously, even I fall asleep while reading those big-word books and I love them.
Love. Loooooooooooooooooove. Like, I would marry this stuff. Right now. Someone get me an officiant who’s ok with marrying a human being to knowledge.
George Takei, I accept your offer.
This (somehow) brings me to my next point:
I think food history should be taught in schools.
Not just colleges and universities and specialized institutions, but also high schools. Heck, even lower and middle schools. Not as a full, year-long course, but as an elective that could easily be an extension of history or social studies classes. English classes. Probably science classes. Maybe even math classes (that might be a stretch, but let’s pretend). I mean, one of the best experiences I had in lower school was a huge presentation on George Washington Carver and peanuts. Every time I eat a peanut I think of that presentation.
Look me in the eye and tell me that’s not food history. I double dog dare you.
So, what I’m doing (and I expect it will take several years) is developing a food history course geared towards middle and high school students. I plan to make it as interesting as my blog posts and use just as many Photoshopped pictures of beans marrying knowledge.
It’s not a fully formed idea. There’s no real plan yet, but there will be. Who knows if it’ll ever come to fruition. If it does, I shall awe you all with my genius and perfection and humility.
Here’s a pug.
Keep eating and asking (and betting on whether or not I’ll ever write another real post again), my friends.
*For the record, I love the Jessica Darling series. Most of it, anyway.