Themes from a course on the history of food.

13 04 2010

My course on the history of food in America wrapped up on Monday – the new historical material part, at least. Now it’s all over but the research paper.

I wasn’t sure how I’d end up tying everything together since I had never taught it before. Thanks to one of my students, Carle Tarnutzer, here are my themes from discussion as transcribed by her:

1. Seasonality.
Fruits and vegetables are unique and exciting because they are only available certain times during the year.

2. Food as a Social Ritual.
Social rituals can include the Rhode Island May Breakfasts, making large meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas or simply bringing people together and eating a meal at the same time.

3. Food and Family.
The best example of this is large family gatherings or having pancakes every Sunday morning with your entire family. There is something about food that reminds you of family or spending time with family.

4. Association of food and social class.
People that were poor ate only what they could afford, and that usually meant the lowest quality goods. Also more expensive meals such as Oysters Rockefeller might be a reflection of how much money you had. If you could host a dinner party and serve oysters or expensive cuts of meat that usually portrayed that you were wealthy.

5. What is it about Americans and gluttony?
Americans eat even if they are not hungry; having a variety and abundance of food easily accessible allows Americans to become gluttonous. It is not about eating for survival, it is about eating for taste, comfort and just because you want to.

6. Association of food and place.
Certain places have a type of food attached to them, like Maine and lobster or New Orleans and Gumbo. A region can be known for its food, like Pueblo and Italian food.

7. Americanization of immigrant food.
Americans have taken other countries’ native food and made it uniquely our own. Sometimes the food is replicated quite well and other times it is massacred.

8. Industrialization and standardization.
Industrialization and standardization of food has allowed for mass production and cheap products that are easily accessible.

9. Race/ethnicity/gender and food.
People of certain races and ethnicities have tended to be associated with certain foods they eat, and those foods were therefore stigmatized. The same basic principle applies to gender: men eat some food and women eat others.

10. Cheap food.
Cheap food is a product of industrialization, mass producing a product allows for the cost of that product to go down.




One response

15 04 2010

Ooh! That sounds fun! Thanks for posting the syllabus. Those books and articles look great.

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