Schedule of Readings & Assignments

General suggestions

  • Regular bullet points listed under each day is what you need to READ FOR THAT DAY.
  • Readings are listed in a particular order that I think works best.
  • HAE refers to How America Eats as described on the syllabus home page. You can access it for free through UNM Libraries.
  • All readings that aren’t hyperlinks are in our Zotero Library. See the syllabus home page for instructions on gaining access.
  • All posted assignments are technically due on the day they are listed so that we all stay on schedule, but they can be submitted up to 9am on the following day. Be sure you are familiar with policies in the “Submitting Work” section on the syllabus home page.

Colored boxes

Videos

All videos will be posted on the course YouTube channel, and I will post link to them on the schedule page under the appropriate day as they become available. If you want announcements of new videos, please subscribe to the channel. The videos are NOT posted in Canvas itself.

Noteworthy is optional

Most days have a “noteworthy” section that lists a few relevant readings on the topic. These are optional! Most have some good ideas that I’ll mention in the videos; others are there just for additional materials and extra credit opportunities. If you spend time with any that seem interesting to you, be sure to mention them in your reflection or quiz so you can get extra credit for that work.

Week 1

Jun 6

Course introductions

Our task for today is to make sure you know how the course is structured and general expectations.

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW: Course Intro
  • Warren Belasco, “Why study food?”, from Food: The Key Concepts, 1–13.

Jun 7

Challenges and Rewards of Food + History

I think this whole course makes more sense when you understand how and why people study food the way they do. So that’s what today is about, complemented by the Haley reading that argues we should resist the urge to romanticize the culinary past as is so often done in food media because: A) it’s never that simple and B) the real history is far more interesting and revealing.

  • Andrew P. Haley, “The Nation before Taste: The Challenges of American Culinary History”, The Public Historian 34.2 (2012): 53–78.
  • VIDEO: Why and how to do food history

Noteworthy

  • G. J. Fitzgerald and G. M. Petrick, “In Good Taste: Rethinking American History with Our Palates”, Journal of American History 95.2 (2008): 392–404.

Jun 8

National Cuisine & American Food

The goal for today is to complicate the idea of “American” food through an investigation of national cuisine generally and ways of thinking about it. There are an unusually high number of readings for today, but they are all quite short and offer unique perspectives that are worth thinking about together.

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • HAE, xi–xv. HAE refers to How America Eats as described on the syllabus home page. You can access it for free through UNM Libraries.
  • Mind of Chef: Ed Lee on American Food
  • Ruth Tobias, Is There Such a Thing as ‘American’ Food?. This article touches on culinary/cultural appropriation, which is a topic we cover in some depth in a few weeks, so focus for no
  • Sidney Mintz, “Eating American”. This is easily the most controversial piece this week, suggesting there is no such thing as American Cuisine. Pay attention to his arguments so you can craft a thoughtful reading reflection for this week.

Noteworthy

  • Alison K. Smith, National Cuisines, from The Oxford Handbook of Food History (2012). You can skim over the long Russia example if you want, as the details don’t much as the general ideas introduced earlier on. But do read the last paragraph! This is definitely the driest of the readings for this week, but it introduces a number of useful concepts to keep in mind as moving through the other readings.
  • Sean Wyer, Italy isn’t Eatalty. The title and conclusion of this article relate the unsurprising point that the cuisine of an entire nation can’t be captured in a giant upscale grocery store. We hardly need to article to explain that to us, but the author makes a number of good points about how to think about national cuisine.

Jun 9

Authenticity

Almost everyone thinks about whether some kind of food or dish is “authentic” from time to time. But what does that really mean? The few readings for today should help us think more carefully notions of authenticity—particularly how it’s paradoxically an entirely superficial way of describing food, but still a very powerful one.

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • Kevin Alexander, Why Authentic Food is Bullshit
  • Dwight Furrow, American Foodie (7: Habits and Heresies: Authenticity, Food Rules, and Traditions), 133–48.

Noteworthy

Jun 10

Cuisines of Contact & Thanksgiving

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • HAE, 1–10 (from Ch. 1: Cuisine of Contact).
  • Philip Deloria, “The Invention of Thanksgiving”, New Yorker, 95.37 (November 25, 2019): 70–74. [Also in Zotero if the link doesn’t work.]
  • Janet Siskind, “The Invention of Thanksgiving: A Ritual of American Nationality”, 167–91.
  • First Thanksgiving Menu. This quick read serves two purposes: it’s a nice overview of what food were likely available at the harvest celebration of 1621. And it’s a good example of uncritical food history that focuses entirely on food without much of the historical context (neither in the 1600s or 1900s).

Week 2

Jun 13

Corn, Cuisine, Identity

Corn may be the ultimate American food: We make a LOT of it, most of which is for cheap animal feed so we can have cheap meat. Corn and derived products are essential to processed food to make them cheap, safe, convenient, and readily available It perfectly embodies the application of technology to food and the constant pursuit of innovation.

It’s also a prime example of how much food can change meanings. As you’ll read about, comparing meanings and uses of corn in Native American traditions and early new England settlements with corn production in 20th century–it’s kind of mind blowing what an incredibly transformation it’s been.

Hopefully after the readings for today you’ll think back to our authenticity readings, and how much to these stories complicate the idea there is any authentic dish anywhere, ever.

  • NO VIDEO
  • HAE, 13–31 (from Ch. 1: Cuisine of Contact).
    • This chapter gives us a lot of basic background information, but also very useful analysis of the meanings of food. For example, we learn how uses of food were essential to Puritan identity, especially the concern for feasting or fasting too much or too little. Puritans were afraid of both abundance and scarcity, as they saw food as means to survive, not a source of enjoyment.
  • Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald, America’s Founding Food (1: This Beautifull Noble Eare), read 4–15 and 45–48 more carefully; skim (but don’t skip) 15–45 on the various dishes.
    • In the early pages, look for how corn figured into different cultural value systems
    • In the section you’re skimming: What do the recipes do? What’s the point? They illustrate through specific examples (maybe too many) how many Native American culinary traditions were incorporated into English traditions, and how English traditions adapted to new geographic circumstances, and how many Native American traditions were gradually were assimilated into what would be considered quintessentially American dishes (Riinjun bread into Boston Brown Bread).

Noteworthy

  • Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma, (Chap. 2: The Farm), 32–56. The point of this reading (it’s the fastest read for today) is to get a sense of the commoditization of corn and why it’s so cheap now. And to compare the meaning of corn as discussed in the other readings with how it’s portrayed in this chapter.
  • Erick Castellanos and Sarah Bergstresser, “The Mexican and Transnational Lives of Corn: Technological, Political, Edible Object”, in Edible Identities (ed. Broulotte and Di Giovine), Taylor & Francis (2016), 201–216.
  • Ever wonder what tassles are for? This explains the reproduction and maturity of dent corn, the most common kind of corn grown in the US, mostly for animal feed. The corn on the cob you like slathered with butter is sweet corn, and it reproduces the same way, but loses less moisture and is, as you might guess, sweeter. The other kind of corn you like to eat is popcorn, which has a non-porous hull. If you heat the kernel, the water in the kernel turns to steam, expands, and turns inside out really slowly, so you can munch on the starchy interior.

Jun 14

Early America, Food, and Households

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • HAE, 33–55 (2: Food and the Founding). Continuing our emphasis on food and identity, this chapter covers how capitalism and food were central to shaping early American identity. Both this chapter and the other reading emphasize the importance of capitalist markets, food production, and the development of cookbooks as a way of cultivating an American cuisine (and identity).
  • Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald, America’s Founding Food (4: Cookbooks and Commerce), 120–147. Even though not clearly marked, there are really two distinct parts to this reading. SKIM the first part (to 129), which explains the capitalist logic of food production in the late 1700s and early 1800s, and how central food was to economic growth. The second part (129+) shows how early cookbooks start reflect the cultural changes underway during that time. Both complement the HAE reading with considerable more detail about the role of women in managing food, the household, and shaping American foodways.

Noteworthy

  • James E. McWilliams, “‘How Unripe We Are’”, Food, Culture & Society 8.2 (2005): 143–60.

Jun 15

Expansion and Immigration

  • NO VIDEO. A pretty straightforward pair of readings for today means you don’t need another video.
  • HAE, 57–87 (3: Expansion and Immigration).
  • Samantha Barbas, “‘I’ll Take Chop Suey’: Restaurants as Agents of Culinary and Cultural Change”, The Journal of Popular Culture, 36.4 (2003): 669–86. As a complement to the HAE chapter, this article vividly illustrates how a certain kind of cuisine is adopted, adapted, and transformed into the melting pot of American food. There is way more detail than we need here, but Barbas paints an intriguing portrait of the creation of Chinese American food, which I would say has been one of the most vibrant genres of cookbooks in the last few years.

Jun 16

History from Cookbooks

  • NO VIDEO. Between the Cookbook Analysis Guide and the readings for today that demonstrate exactly what you should do with your cookbooks, you already have everything you need to know.
  • Ken Albala, Cookbooks as Historical Documents. This highly skimmable chapter nicely lays out a process for interrogating cookbooks and reading in between the lines with many excellent examples.
  • Rachel A. Snell, As North American as Pumpkin Pie: Cookbooks and the Development of National Cuisine in North America, 1796-1854. This title is misleading, as the article is more about how cookbooks can be used to create a national identity more than a cuisine. But that’s precisely why it’s interesting and useful to us in thinking about how to read old cookbooks. The analysis here is a great example of what I hope you’ll do (on a much smaller scale) with your own cookbooks.

Noteworthy

  • Harry Haff, The Founders of American Cuisine: Seven Cookbook Authors, with Historical Recipes (2: Amelia Simmons), 21–33. We’re looking at this as an example of how the author analyzes Simmons’s cookbook, particularly the way the author comments on how explanation or ambiguities in the recipes reflect what readers would know or not know.
  • Barbara Ketcham Wheaton, “Cookbook as Resources for Social History”. This chapter very nicely sketches out, with many diverse examples, how cookbooks function as windows onto history, including how and why they were used in the world.
  • Keith Stavely and Kathleen Fitzgerald, United Tastes: The Making of the First American Cookbook (2: Culinary Tradition), 29–51. This provides a fascinating cultural background of cookbooks and their evolution. Honestly the first few sentences of each paragraph will give you enough background.

  • Colleen Cotter, “Claiming a Piece of the Pie”, 51–68.
  • Jane C. Busch, “Using Cookbooks as Research Documents”, 22–25.

Some cookbooks mentioned in the readings

Jun 17

Improving Nature

Today we look at an interesting early connection between food, health, and technology that still influences our food choices.

Noteworthy

Week 3

Jun 20

Nutrition, Economy, and Citizenship

Building off Friday’s video and theme of how dietary and moral advice are frequently intertwined, today we look at how popularization of nutritional science provided the perfect “objective” rationale for telling immigrants how they should eat. As we’ll see, the goal seems to have been as much as about health as it was to encourage immigrants to be more American and moral in their food choices.

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • Katherine Turner, How the Other Half Ate (Ch. 1: The Problem of Food), ebook pp. 14–39. [online through UNM]
  • Charlotte Biltekoff, Eating Right in America (Ch. 2: Scientific Moralization), 13–44.

Jun 21

Industrializing Meat

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • Joshua Specht, The price of plenty: how beef changed America
  • Emeyln Rude, Tastes like Chicken, 6–11; 27–39; 130–134; 141–160; 181–192. Sorry for all the partial sections here; the PDF is just the pages you need to read. The book tends to go off on lots of cool tangents, so we skip around to stay on topic. This looks like a crazy amount of reading, but the physical pages and number of words on them are quite small, and many pages are recipes that you can skip over. It goes by really fast, and it’s a fun non-academic read.

Jun 22

REST DAY!

Jun 23

Untangling Food in the Southwest

  • NO VIDEO
  • Jeffrey M. Pilcher, “Tex-Mex, Cal-Mex, New Mex, or Whose Mex? Notes on the Historical Geography of Southwestern Cuisine”. Journal of the Southwest 43.44 (2001): 659-–79.
  • Katherine Massoth, “‘Mexican Cookery that Belongs to the United States’: Evolving Boundaries of Whiteness in New Mexican Kitchens”, in Food Across Borders (ed. Garcia, DuPuis, and Mitchell), 44–59.

Noteworthy

Jun 24

Culinary Diffusion

  • Helen Zoe Veit, Modern Food, Moral Food (6: Americanizing the American Diet), 123–56.
  • Amy Bentley, “From Culinary Other to Mainstream America: Meanings and Uses of Southwestern Cuisine”, in Culinary Tourism (ed. Lucy M. Long), University Press of Kentucky (2013), 209–223.

Week 4

Jun 27

Culinary Appropriation

Personally, I find most culinary appropriation conversations to be unhelpfully superficial. It is pointless to debate whether culinary/cultural appropriation actually happens (it does), or whether it’s just some people being overly sensitive (it is), or whether it can be an inadvertent or purposeful tool of marginalization (it can). These are non-debatable facts. What matters for today is how we can learn to think and talk about appropriation in a sufficiently nuanced way that encourages innovation and adaptation in terms of food while simultaneously respecting cultural heritage and meanings.

Noteworthy

Jun 28

Counter Cuisine

  • VIDEO OVERVIEW
  • Warren Belasco, Appetite for Change (Oppositional Identities), 43–67.
  • Megan Elias, Food on the Page (Oppositional Appetites), 145–176.

Noteworthy

Jun 29

No video or new reading for today! Food Blog Analysis is due.

Jun 30

Wrapping up

  • No reading!
  • CONCLUDING VIDEO. This final video will highlight some of the key themes and ideas that I hope stick with you long after the course and help you with your Final Course Reflection.

July 1 (Friday)

Nothing!

Keep working on your Final Course Reflection.

July 2 (Saturday)

Last official day of the class, but you can have the rest of the weekend (+ Monday) to work on your last reflection.

July 5 (TUESDAY!)

Your FINAL Learning Reflection—over the WHOLE CLASS—needs to be turned in BY THE END OF TODAY. See the Final Course Reflection Guide. I can’t emphasize enough that this SHOULD NOT BE MERELY A SUMMARY of what we’ve covered. Instead, as the instructions explain in more detail, illustrate how your thinking about food has changed over the month, and how your submitted work justifies what you think should be your overall grade for the course.