On October 7th, Mary Higgins Clark Chair Ligaya Mishan, The New York Times and T magazine food columnist, delivered a lecture at the Lincoln Center campus entitled “Off the Rails in Hungry City: Confessions of an Accidental Food Writer.” The address was followed by the Mary Higgins Clark High Tea Gala on October 12th, in celebration of Mishan’s visit and the English community at Fordham.
As reported in a story from Fordham News, Mishan, perhaps best known for her Hungry City column, was a fitting speaker for first-year students whose experiential theme is Food for Thought, which will expand on many themes explored in Mishan’s work. But for her lecture, Mishan homed in on immigrants and the bounty they bring to New York City.
“My particular mission is to wander the length and breadth of the city in search of different kinds of places: Chinese, African, and Polish, the unexpected and undersold,” she said in her talk.
Mishan began her career after graduate school at an ad agency, with no thoughts of food writing. She eventually moved on to become a book synopsis writer at the New Yorker, where she didn’t get a byline. There, she asked her editor if she could write restaurant reviews, a subject that didn’t have the same cachet a decade ago than it does now. Eventually, a New York Times editor contacted her to say, simply, “I like the way you write.”
“If I have any advice to give to you, the students here who are standing at the threshold of your adult lives, it would be this: Whatever your achievements, whatever your talents, you may not yet know what you’re really good at, but whatever path you imagine lies before you … there really is no path,” Mishan said.
After Monday’s address, Mishan’s visit continued with craft classes and one-on-one advising throughout the week. Students were invited to ask questions and glean from Mishan all they desired to know about food, journalism, and the writing process.
On Saturday, October 12th, the English department welcomed students, faculty, and alumni to the Mary Higgins Clark High Tea Gala, an afternoon of fellowship and sumptuous tea treats in the Bronx Botanical Garden. In the elegant Garden Terrace Room, guests enjoyed tea delicacies such as finger sandwiches, scones, and macaroons alongside their tea and champagne over which they got to know the other members of the Fordham English community seated at their tables. Mishan delivered an address to guests, eliciting delight as she remarked on tea and her work as a critic.
After the tea, attendees were invited to stroll the beautiful garden grounds and enjoy a curated playlist of poetry and song, including readings from William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Christina Rossetti, and Li Young Lee, as well as music by Prince, Sia, Sarah McLachlan, and beyond.
Students such as Aislinn Keely, FCRH ’20, appreciated the experience of the high tea, along with the opportunity it presented to commune with alumni, faculty, and other students.
“The high tea not only brought together various groups of people in the department, from students with different focuses to professors and alumni, but did so by creating a shared experience,“ Keely said. “Most of the people I encountered had never attended a high tea. Exposing appreciators of English at Fordham to a new shared experience was a valuable exercise in community building.“
Of the Mary Higgins Clark events, FCLC student Shannie Rao writes:
Having the chance to speak to and hear from a successful writer is an unparalleled experience that we are offered here at Fordham through the Mary Higgins Clark Chair in Creative Writing. Ligaya Mishan’s speech had me leaning forward the whole time, eager to hear more, and she proved to be just as eloquent and informative in a smaller setting. The masterclass and one-on-ones created such a great atmosphere and the opportunity to learn in a quick and exciting way. There’s something so beautiful about getting to take feedback and advice from a talented writer that filled me with inspiration for the rest of the week. Closing the events with the high tea, I loved getting the chance to speak to students from both campuses and speak with English professors that I would not have seen otherwise. It was clear what a family atmosphere has been fostered in the English program as a result of this event. The event felt like a perfect fit for Ligaya Mishan in particular as her speech offered insight into the history of high tea that sparked further conversations among everyone at my table. The week’s events were one of the highlights of my year so far and left me excited and intrigued as to what next year’s events will bring.
The full High Tea Gala slideshow can be found on the High Tea event page.