Digital Food History Analysis Guide

This assignment is one of the two “final” assignments for the course, due the Saturday after class (short extensions will be readily granted).


The main goal of this class is to help us think more critically about food and food history, particularly how it appears online, in Google searches for instance, which is how we often find (mis)information quickly.

Your research presentations will show you applying the analytical frameworks we learn in this class to a particular topic of your choice (anything vaguely related to food history, even if not American).

The default project is to pick a topic and report on the what you find on the first page of Google (or whatever) search results. Questions you’ll answer in your presentations:

  • What common information is repeated across the different sites?
  • Where do the sites diverge? Or contradict each other?
  • To what extent are the historical claims supported by archival sources? (as opposed to other websites or secondary sources?) Do they provide any historical evidence?
  • Do the sites give you any reason to take them seriously? Why are they talking about the topic?
  • What ways of thinking about food history are missing?

The Process

  • Google “history of X” where X is some food related topic.
  • Write 800-1000 words that analyze the search results through the lenses we used throughout the course.
    • Put your search phrase at the top of your assignment
  • The assignment is to describe the aggregate results; you are trying to create a typology.
    • A TYPOLOGY is an explanation of the KINDS of approaches, including their strengths and weaknesses.
  • As you did with cookbooks: You should indicate WHY the sites say what they do (don’t worry about design).
  • What can they tell us about approaches/values/interests related to food in America?

  • Maybe the best way to think of what you’re doing: Imagine that you’re creating a writing guide for the first page of search results. You’re writing for someone interested in the topic, but hasn’t taken this class and therefore might not be aware of the many assumptions/biases/omissions/etc that can easily infiltrate and entire set of sources. Your job, therefore, is to help guide your curious but naive reader through the minefield of food history on the web.

  • FOR BOTH: You now have, however rushed, expertise in the history of American Food. Use that expertise to write a critical and informed review. You are being evaluated on the extent to which your expertise shines through your reviews.