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Eating Critically

ecohn's picture

      Mary Flanagan, in the introduction to her book Clinical Play defines play as many different things, finding sources in the works of anthropologist Brian Sutton-Smith, Historian Johan Huizinga, and the general agreement found between most anthropologists and historians.  Some of the general “rules” of play that Flanagan mentions are that play is central to human life, is mentally or physically challenging, is voluntary and pleasurable, and is somehow separated from reality.  In my travels into Philadelphia, I found that what most helped me to play was that the trips were very separated from my everyday reality.

     My daily routine is filled with classes, studying, and Erdman’s consistent but decent cuisine. Escaping the norm and exploring the streets of Philadelphia was definitely a welcome aberration. One specific change that helped me to relax was the food.

     Bryn Mawr’s food is delicious.  A powerful recruiting factor that Bryn Mawr has is their superiority in food production: Bryn Mawr’s dining services are much better than other colleges. However, three meals a day of our unchanging diet leaves students desperate for something more. Reading Terminal Market was the perfect solution.

     Sporting hundreds of dietary options, Reading Terminal Market is incredibly overwhelming for a student who has grown accustomed to the more confining styles of the Bryn Mawr dining halls. This obvious difference from my daily reality helped me to let loose and play in the city. I soon found myself not only ordering a side of fries along with my Greek Gyro, but also getting three cookies…and eating all of them within the minute.

     The Market was gargantuan, and as our group struggled to find foods to fill our fantasies, we failed at staying together. Breaking off to tackle the beastly menu, we were only able to find each other again thanks to our cell phones, and Hope’s Cookies (which acted as a magnet to half of the market’s clientele).  The market was not only large, but also filled with people. They burst from every kiosk, and delicious smells and advertising vendors filled our senses. People waited in lines, shouted orders, searched anxiously for familiar faces, devoured meals, exchanged money, and shared the Reading Terminal Market experience.

   Being fully immersed in people, foods, and smells was pretty different from the “small college” experience that I signed up for. The incredible stimulation was energizing and helped to pique my interest, as well as my appetite. I went crazy, visiting three different food venders, and spending about fifteen minutes just making the decision of what to eat.

    The “day-cation” atmosphere of the trips offered a sense of carefree ease which really helped me to let go of stress about schoolwork, and fully devote myself to the tasks at hand, whether they were finding food, listening to “the Quiet Volume”, examining the mosaics of Isaiah Zagar, or simply finding serendipity. This clear separation from my “reality” allowed me to embrace serendipity and play in the city.


Works Cited

Flanagan, Mary. "Introduction to Critical Play." Critical Play: Radical Game Design. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2009. 1-16. Print.




Cordelia Larsen's picture

Ellen states that these trips

Ellen states that these trips into Philly were very different and separated from our usual schedule at Bryn Mawr. This change allowed her to explore different cuisines at Reading Terminal Market and “let loose and play in the market”. I enjoy how specific she was in choosing one place and event to focus on in her essay. Escaping reality outside of campus helped Ellen enjoy her day in the city and “play critically”.

Taylor Milne's picture


Ellen elaborated on her experiences in Reading Terminal Market, which I found interesting because she connected this both to her everyday life at Bryn Mawr, and to the Flanagan essay. I liked that she took the definitions of "play" that were created within the Flanagan reading, and then explained her trip into Philadelphia as defined by these rules. I also liked the unique point of view that she chose to focus on in her paper.

Frindle's picture

I noticed that you split the

I noticed that you split the paper up into a section on Flanagan and then a section on your experience in the city.  The section on Flanagan was mainly about the rules of play, and that you then went on to describe your experience in relation to that rule. You didn't bring it back to Flanagan at the end, however, and you didn't end on an open note, either.