Haverford Senior Awarded Watson Fellowship
Kaplan, a history major, will literally explore the olive, mapping its evolution from a hard and bitter fruit into a central ingredient for cooking and eating across Europe and North Africa.
By visiting and working in the olive oil mills and olive markets of Greece, Italy, Spain, and Morocco, Kaplan will discover how each country grows, picks and processes olives and uses them to transform their food. She hopes that, by observing and taking part in this transformation, she will discover the complex nature and subtle tones of each region. She will record her experiences through photography and journaling, and present the results in a book she will create and bind herself.
Explaining why she chose the olive as her subject, Kaplan explains, "The olive seemed to contain such a potentially explosive range of possibilities. I thought that anything so deeply rooted in history and so powerfully enmeshed in cultural identity must be a powerful reflector of the societies along the Mediterranean. I was also attracted to the fact that the olive is so ubiquitous that we hardly take note of its presence, its meaning, its origins."
Kaplan is no stranger to any aspect of food cultivation and preparation. A native of Manhattan, she spent summers working in Union Square's famed Farmer's Market. While at Haverford, she was employed in the kitchen of the local Natural Food Market. During school breaks in New York, she took classes at the Natural Gourmet Cooking School for Food and Health, and assisted the chef instructors during the school's two-week intensive introductions while volunteering at another kitchen at the Integral Yoga Institute. She spent her junior year at Oxford University in England, experiencing the country's rich culinary customs at the local shops, markets and farms. And last summer, she arranged to work at a small organic farm in Northern California, picking and gathering strawberries, tomatoes, squash and zucchini.
Kaplan describes her feelings on receiving the Watson Fellowship as "sheer excitement and anticipation mingled with fleeting moments of 'Oh, God, what have I gotten myself into?'"
Founded in 1968, the Watson Fellowship program provides a one-year grant to graduating seniors from 50 participating colleges and universities, and allows them to embark on a focused and disciplined "wanderjahr," a year of travel and independent study abroad.