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Imaginary Syllabus for a Food and Culture class

November 3, 2011

This started with reading Cuisine and Culture by Linda Civitello. I got it from the eNYPL and was reading it on Kindle and finding it fascinating. (Also, I’m now on a quest to find a paper copy. I’m increasingly convinced I shouldn’t read nonfiction on Kindle.)

It’s all about how food’s place in culture evolved, from guesses based on prehistoric archaeology to studies of ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform recipes to Greece and Rome, and through history. It’s historically meticulous, and really interesting social history. Which I love. So I started imagining how you could use it in an anthro class about food and culture.

I wish I were still in college. So I could take this course. Though, in fairness, I didn’t get excited about food writing til a few years ago. It may be that this class exists somewhere. I’m afraid to look, because I know, if it exists, I’d drop everything (including a large chunk of change) to take it. So here is what I imagine would be a good reading list.

Reading List for Food and Culture Anthropology Class

Cuisine and Culture- Linda Civitello. For reasons listed above.

The United States of Arugula– David Kamp. A fascinating history of the evolution of American cuisine, leading to the current notion of the foodie. Possibly also excerpts from Bobos in Paradise, because I think it is an excellently readable social history of how appetites become trendy.

97 Orchard, by Jane Ziegelman. Excellently written social history of a tenement building on the Lower East Side of New York, focusing on the different immigrant families who lived there, and culture shifts in New York neighborhoods. It’s a combination of well-researched narrative, food history, even some vintage recipes. Tremendously fun book!

An entire week’s discussion about Julia Child, including cookbook excerpts, and selections from My Life In France.

Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant, to play with ideas about eating alone vs eating socially.

Lunch Wars, which I have read, or Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which I haven’t, to introduce ideas of food politics.

Assignments would include: Read an ethnography of a non-US culture and a cookbook of recipes from that culture, and write a paper exploring the construction of cultural identity, and how it plays out in food.

Possible class trip to sample an ethnic market.

Or a cooking class?

What other books? This has the added bonus of generating a book list I would read delightedly.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    November 3, 2011 1:26 pm

    Once you read “97 Orchard” you might want to add it to this list.

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