USD Professor Cooks Up Lesson in Philosophy and Taste

USD Professor Nick Riggle standing in front of kitchen stove
begin quoteWe’re all feeling anxious and uncertain right now, and I knew the first week of remote teaching would be really difficult for everyone, so I thought about how I could make my students smile while teaching them about that week’s material.

Be it whipped coffee or home-grown sourdough bread, the kitchen beckons to us all while we stay safe indoors. For USD Philosophy Professor Nicholas Riggle, PhD, he noticed a perfect opportunity to not only cook something delicious, but to create a fun and interactive lesson for his students at the same time. In his video, “Cooking with Friedrich Schiller,” Professor Riggle prepares a unique twist on the classic dish, risotto, while at the same time explaining the importance of the aesthetic state of the ingredients he uses.

Watch his video and read the follow-up Q&A where Professor Riggle shares his inspiration for this creative and fun lesson—and what he plans to cook up next!

 

1. How did you come up with the idea to create this video and what inspired you to do so?

I wanted to make something special for my students during the first week of remote teaching. We’re all feeling anxious and uncertain right now, and I knew the first week of remote teaching would be really difficult for everyone, so I thought about how I could make my students smile while teaching them about that week’s material. Lucky for me, the material happened to be my favorite text in the history of aesthetics—Friedrich Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man. In that text Schiller develops the fascinating idea that what is really special about beauty isn’t that it gives us pleasure but that it makes us free. This isn’t an easy idea to grasp, so I was thinking about how best to illustrate it. I love to garden and cook and my wife and I have a lot of beets in the garden right now, so we’re inundated with beet greens. Seeing the pile of beet greens in my kitchen inspired me to get creative for dinner one night and that’s when I got the idea for the video.
 

2. Was there a specific audience you hoped this would reach or maybe a certain impact you hoped it would create for its viewers?

Initially I hoped to communicate to my students how fantastic Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man is. But I also know that a lot of my colleagues in philosophy are not very familiar with Schiller’s theory of beauty, so I shared it on Facebook and Twitter as a little ‘intro to Schiller.’ I recently finished a long two-part essay on Schiller’s aesthetics, co-authored with the philosopher Samantha Matherne, so anyone who wants the technical details can read that in the British Journal of Aesthetics.
 

3. Has this experience inspired any new recipes or other creativity in your home?

Well, I’m always playing around in the kitchen, but the quarantine has certainly added a twist to my experiments. I’m reaching farther back into the pantry and scouring our cookbooks for inspiration. I had amaranth in my pantry and made amaranth crackers from chef Sean Sherman’s book, The Sioux Chef. I also plan to do a few more videos for my students. And our backyard has never looked better—I'm refinishing all the wood outdoor furniture! I definitely wouldn’t have done that otherwise.
 

4. What is your favorite thing to cook right now?

I love nixtamalizing corn and making fresh corn tortillas, so we’re lucky to have a lot of dry corn in the house. We also have an hoja santa plant in the backyard. So I’ve been making masa and pressing it into hoja santa leaves to make the most delicious tortillas. We have a lot of fennel right now, too, and we’ve been making pesto from fennel fronds. It’s delicious and versatile—works in risotto, pasta, sandwiches, eggs, or even as a spread for the amaranth crackers. Here’s one of my favorite pantry cooking ideas: Cook pasta in lavender-mint tea and make a simple pasta sauce from charred onion. Top with pistachios. 

Contact:

Hugo Werstler
werstlerhu@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4601