When I was first introduced to this project, I was apprehensive. I thought “how in the world am I going to pull this off?” However, I’ve always been a little creative, and overall I’d say our Kentucky Kitchen Table was one of the most inventive things I’ve ever contributed to.
For starters, my KKT was original in that I teamed up with my friends Katy and Katelyn to attempt a non-cafeteria, non-fast food, wholesome dinner at Western Kentucky University. I’d have to say that the preparation for Kentucky Kitchen Table was one of my favorite parts. We experienced different forms of diversity through the entire project, even from the start when we planned our components around one of our guest’s vegan diet, which I had never done before (vegan food is actually not bad). Before starting the project, I was closely acquainted to both Katy and Katelyn, but through the grocery shopping and frantic cooking I became closer with both girls as I learned more about their different personalities and backgrounds (even Katy’s love of “You’re so Vain” by Carly Simon). First, we had some challenges because of our group decision to stay on campus. We needed a kitchen table! And a kitchen! Luckily, the organization Christian Student Fellowship, which Katy and I are involved in, was kind enough to let us borrow their table in their house where they hold non-denominational worship Tuesday and Sunday nights for students. For our kitchen, we utilized the kitchen in Minton Hall, where we all live here on campus. The kitchen had to be the most difficult obstacle, because it is smaller than most walk-in closets. However, we beat the heat coming from the stove and managed to produce a wonderful meal together. We decided on pasta with a choice of marinara or alfredo sauce. To complement our main dish, we included a salad and garlic bread. We ended the meal with delicious brownies that Katelyn made.
One of the premier parts of our dinner were the guests. We each invited a few friends, which totaled to eight people. I invited my friend Seth, Katy brought Theresa and Tucker, and Katelyn brought Anne and Jill. All of our attendants were students at WKU, with varying majors and reasons for coming to Bowling Green. Although the group lacked apparent diversity, we were all from various upbringings and had different, unique personality traits. One of the most unique, however, was our guest Yujen. Better known on campus as “Loud Asian”, Yujen joined our table halfway through dinner when he heard us from upstairs at the Christian Student Fellowship house. Although his presence was brief, because he enjoyed our dorm-made pasta so much that he polished his plate in less than fifteen minutes, we enjoyed hearing about his passion for martial arts and the state of California. Yujen added additional diversity to our group, as well as a conversation burst upon his exit. After he departed, our group began to discuss our different views of Yujen’s frequent presence on campus, as well as some of his antics which he is locally famous for.
Yujen was not the only topic of discussion at our table. Initially, conversation was one of my main concerns for our group. However, from the start of our dinner my previous assumptions that things would be awkward were blown away with jokes and opinions frequenting the table. I particularly enjoyed this, because I like to be very social and liked learning about our guest’s unique characteristics. For example, I listened while Seth shared the reasons for getting a large chest tattoo, and Theresa’s passion for the clarinet, which she plays in the Big Red Marching Band. I also thought it was interesting hearing about everyone’s hometowns. Every guest at our table originated from Kentucky, with the exception of Katelyn and myself, who call Tennessee home. Tucker and Anne are both from Frankfort, and Seth and Theresa went to the same high school. Although these guests shared a few aspects of the places they reside, they had very different opinions when asked about some of the details like neighbors and favorite things about their hometown. As we got into other details of our lives, including both campus and back home, I began to gain an appreciation for the prevalent diversity appearing at our table. This began to clear things up for me as to why we did this project in Honors Citizen and Self. I realized that openly sharing our different opinions and interests which made us unique in a comfortable, welcoming environment simultaneously united us as we all were desperate to find out more about one another.
As we began to shift to less superficial topics, Katy, Katelyn, and I presented our required question “Beyond voting, paying taxes, and following laws, what does citizenship mean to you?”. Seth, being the light-hearted guy he is, responded with a firm “Murica” which we all responded to with laughs and giggles. However, after we calmed our enjoyment, Anne offered an excellent response which received approving nods in agreement from the rest of our table. She responded to our question by sharing that to her, being a citizen means being able to freely express opinions and views openly, thus utilizing the freedoms and rights we are granted as citizens and unifying us under these rights. Anne’s response resonated with me, and made the meaning and relevance of Kentucky’s Kitchen Table all the more apparent to me. I realized that despite our guest’s differences, not all in appearance, we were able to unite under the fact that we were free to share our various backgrounds and thoughts at a simple dinner.
After our plates were clean and our bellies full, Katy, Katelyn, and I said goodbye to Jill, Anne, Theresa, Seth, and Tucker. As we washed up the dishes and packed what few leftovers we had, we reflected on our dinner and agreed that this project was an excellent example of healthy deliberation and how our guest were willing to contribute to making a great dinner, just as we as citizens strive to contribute to making a better world.