Culture and cycling

By Claire Fenton

From athlete to amputee, academic to food culture expert, Lisa Stowe has proved herself to be one of the university’s hottest instructors, so much so she merits a chili pepper from

A University of Calgary communication and culture instructor for nine years, Stowe’s interests are vast and reflect the department in which she works–interdisciplinary. Her research is in rhetoric, experiential learning, travel study and sport culture. Her most successful research interest has brought a unique flavour to the university, especially seen in her COMS 401 course on food culture, introduced in 2001.

“[Dr. Dawn Johnston] and I were both quite interested in Food TV and food writing, and back in 2001, we proposed a new course in food culture,” said Stowe. “It won a Special Sessions Innovation award and has become a regular course offering in C&C.”

Because she comes from an academic background, an intermingling of English literature, theatre and education, Stowe wanted to teach in a place which would help her draw from those areas, as well as developing new ones.

“The C&C faculty values energy and innovation,” she said. “[It] helps me stay fresh in my work.”

Last year, Stowe internationalized the food culture course by leading a food culture travel study to Spain.

“[Spain] is simultaneously the most innovative culinary centre in Europe and one of the most traditional,” said Stowe. “It relies heavily on traditional local ingredients and flavours, but also on innovative modes of preparation. It’s a very cool place to eat.”

By combining her areas of research–food culture and travel study–the trip showed that food is an important part of everyday life and combining it with the study of culture of a place is a great way to understand a culture as a whole. Even at home in Calgary, the study of food as a cultural activity interests Stowe. Her research takes her to multiple restaurants to sample the food which keeps her current on what’s happening in restaurant culture.

Her international travel to study the culture of food may only be dimmed by another international highlight of her life, competing for Canada as a Paralympic cyclist. Outside of her success as a university researcher, her perseverance in athletics took her to the national championships in 2005 and 2006.

“I’ve been cycling recreationally for years, but was recruited to train more seriously when the coach of the national Paralympics cycling team approached me on the bike path one day,” she said. “He was looking for folks with disabilities who were fairly serious about athletics.”

As Stowe is a congenital right-hand amputee, she is no stranger to overcoming obstacles. Congenital amputees are faced with coping with a disability from birth. She noted that training heavily for the Paralympics team was harder than any of her other involvement in sports, but was also the largest accomplishment of her life.

“I represented Canada at the World Championships in Switzerland in September 2006–one of the proudest moments of my life,” said Stowe. “Cycling is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically and mentally. It’s really helped me set goals and fulfill them, in all aspects of my life.”

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