College Essay: Shannon Daniels

What matters most to you and why?

My family is a blend of roast pork with rice, corned-beef, and cabbage: we consume culture just as much as food. We visit relatives for Christmas dinners as well as honor the Buddhist tradition of laying out a picnic beneath a loved one’s tombstone. Of all the things that matter to me, the single thing that has affected me most is simple: cooking.

I listen to stories about my grandparents while sautéing vegetables, my birth while brewing tea, and my mother’s childhood while carving cantaloupe. Every recipe is a narrative and every kitchen a laboratory, a garden, a designer workroom, and dozens of countries at once. The most intimate way I’ve learned about my amalgam of cultures, and any culture or language, is by tasting it. I’ve learned to be resourceful when we’ve run out of an ingredient, researched the origins of some of our oldest recipes, and added pinches of words in foreign languages to my vocabulary. Everything I’ve learned from a kitchen, I’ve applied to my writing and all of my creative pursuits. I add and subtract the lines of a poem judiciously, like spicing a soup. I collaborate with other writers the way my cousins and I bake on Thanksgiving together.

I thrive in an environment where connections such as these – cooking and culture, language and stories – aren’t just appreciated, but encouraged. I’d bring to the table my enthusiasm for learning across disciplines and experimenting with style and structure – sharing my recipes.

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