Instructor’s Teaching Experience

This text by Capon is an excerpt from a larger work titled The Supper of the Lamb (1969), which is a wide-ranging theological-culinary exploration. Though I teach it in the context of my food and farming literature course, it could work equally well in a course examining religion or environment. (Or if you’d just like to teach a piece that takes an object as its focus and examines it more closely than you thought possible.) Students have enjoyed this text as an example of just how much thought, reflection, and appreciation a writer can put into a single thing, as Capon details how a person might sit down and carefully dissect an onion while attuning oneself to the cosmic wonder of its structure.

Classroom Strategies

Given that Capon’s text is dedicated to commanding newfound respect and appreciation for the humble onion, I allow students 5-ish minutes to locate a passage they found particularly illuminating or which elicited a strong response from them. Using a few of their examples, we close read as a class the smaller details in the brief chosen passage that contribute to Capon’s philosophical message and his prose style. After close reading as an entire class, we break into small groups of 3-4 people and compose our own “food reflections” in the style of Capon, using the structure and sensory elements of the food item to reflect on and elicit a larger symbolic or “cosmic” message. Assigning a “scribe” or head writer for each group is important here, as the group should be composing a full paragraph. I allow groups to choose their own food. I also typically assign a “researcher” who will search for information online about the food that might contribute to the creative paragraph, and a “group leader” who keeps people on task and will present the writing at the end of the activity. Any remaining group members should be contributing language to the paragraph. Group leaders will be asked to read their group’s paragraph and provide rationale for their creative choices and what philosophical points they were trying to evoke. This creative activity usually takes 15-20 minutes to compose the paragraph, and at least another 20 minutes to present and discuss the results. (I typically ask students to post text or a photo of their writing to an ICON discussion board so that everyone can view them.)

Additional Resources

PDF iconPDF of Capon’s “On the Onion”