A reflection on trying to branch out from your field using the metaphor of 3 student-friendly recipes with a tin of tomatoes. The tinned tomatoes are a metaphor. For being versatile. Like being interdisciplinary. Get it? Got it. Good.
Moving on.

Let’s talk about being interdisciplinary (or trying to), that is, relating to more than one field/branch/discipline of knowledge. Here are 3 (and a bonus) reflections on this journey and 3 (and a bonus) recipes with tinned tomatoes.


REFLECTION and RECIPE #1

Shakshuka

Shakshuka and Silos
This is a bastardised ‘kitchen staples’ version of Shakshuka, a spicy tomato, baked egg dish served across the Middle East and North Africa.

Silos are terms used to describe systems, departments, fields, disciplines etc. that act in isolation from others (like a grain silo – more metaphors). Incidental or deliberate silos are dangerous academically as they can lead to narrow interpretations, limited frameworks of understanding and methodology, and intellectual tunnel vision. We are increasingly dealing with more and more complex issues, especially in the social sciences, and multifaceted views and approaches are crucial to the development of considered, holistic and responsive research and policy. So try and branch out into other fields, either formally or informally – I for one am doing a development and a gender course as part of my MSc!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • A desire to branch out
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 1 pepper (diced)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Spice of your choice (chopped chilli, chilli powder, paprika, peri peri sauce, Sriracha, cumin etc.)
  • 4 eggs
  • Toast of your choice
  • Garnish (coriander and parsley are particularly good here, but you could also add a dollop of cream cheese)

Fry onion and pepper in a large (I use a 23cm) frying pan until softened and add garlic and continue frying. Pour in chopped tomatoes, spice, seasoning and about half a tin of water and continue cooking until sauce has thickened and is not longer ‘watery’. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Make sure it’s evenly coating the base of your pan and crack your eggs onto the tomato base. Cover with a lid or some tin foil and let the eggs ‘steam’ until whites are solid and yolks are set to your liking. Serve on toast and garnish.
(Meat Variation: Stir in crispy bacon before adding the eggs)


REFLECTION and RECIPE #2

Pasta and Publishing
pastaBranching out into other fields can be daunting. Not only are you working with potentially new content, theories and methodologies, but also with all the uncertainty of the field itself! Who are the main authors? Who is credible and who’s become dated? What theories are current and how did they develop to this point? What are the big debates? What are the major journals? We have a tendency to stick with the familiar, where we feel confident in our knowledge, but don’t be afraid to dive into the deep end of a different field. You might end up finding an interesting approach to your research interests, or a new framework to use in your dissertation. Don’t get complacent!

Ingredients (Serves approx. 2 but it depends on how saucy you like your pasta – and who am I do dictate pasta portion sizes? You live your best life)

  • A taste for the unfamiliar
  • Pasta of your choice
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Fresh basil (thanks to flatmate and fellow Students@LSE blogger Sai for letting me steal some of hers)
  • Grated cheese of your choice

Cook pasta according to package instructions (if you start water boiling when you start making the sauce they should be done at approximately the same time). Fry onion in a frying pan until softened and add garlic and continue frying. Pour in chopped tomatoes, seasoning and about half a tin of water and continue cooking until sauce has thickened and is not longer ‘watery’. This should take about 10-15 minutes. (You’ll notice the similarities here to the Shakshuka, you could always do what I did and cook the sauce together and decant half for the other recipe). Throw cooked and drained pasta into sauce (in pan) and stir around to coat and combine. Serve with fresh herbs and some grated cheese.
(Meat Variation: Add a drained tin of tuna to your sauce before adding the pasta)


REFLECTION and RECIPE #3

Soup and Subjectivity
soupIf you’re at the postgraduate level, you’ve probably developed a pride in your chosen discipline (and if you’re undergrad, you’re probably on your way there). So, it can be quite disheartening to see your field, or even your favourite theories and approaches challenged or flatly disregarded by your new pursuits. How could they? Imagine my experience as a student of bureaucracy and government, encountering community based development approaches designed to bypass the state altogether? Don’t panic or give up. This is the beauty of being interdisciplinary. If we’re to be the new knowledge creators we must constantly be challenging, redefining and refining our own fields, and how better to do that than from an outside perspective?

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Self reflection and a touch of humility
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 carrots (peeled and finely chopped)
  • Fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano (or just some dried mixed herbs if you want)
  • 1/2 tin measure of dried red lentils
  • Vegetable stock cube/pot/liquid dissolved in 2 tins of boiling water
  • Feta cheese (or some cream cheese/cream/creme fraiche/cottage cheese)
  • Bread, croutons, crackers etc.

You guessed it: Fry onion in a large pot until soft and add garlic and continue cooking. Add tomatoes, carrot, herbs, lentils and stock and bring to a boil uncovered, stirring so the lentils don’t stick. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally until lentils are soft. If you have a blender, blend it up, otherwise eat it chunky with some rustic crusty bread and some salty feta.
PRO-TIP Red lentils are high in protein!
(Meat variation: chop, slice and pan-fry some spicy chorizo and add to finish soup before serving)


BONUS REFLECTION and RECIPE

Cocktails and Candor
I’ll be honest with you. It will be daunting and it will be difficult. There are many structural and ideological barriers to being interdisciplinary. Complacency is easy, continuity is convenient, and denial is not disruptive. But power through the doubt and challenge yourself to look wider and further and deeper. Your research (and academia for the most part) will be better for it.

Ingredients (Serves as many as you can stand)

  • (Dutch) Courage
  • Tomato juice (DO NOT TRY USE TINNED TOMATOES FOR THIS ONE)
  • Vodka
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Tabasco
  • Lemon Juice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Stick of celery to garnish if you’re old-school

Combine together over ice. Serve immediately. Regret later.

jonesphi

Emma

Studying an MSc in Public Policy and Administration with particular interest in issues of narratives and orthodoxies. A natural blonde with an RBF hailing from Cape Town, South Africa. Pretzel enthusiast, keen baker and avid procrasticrafter.