Food, Technology, and Society
Spring 2020 • HIST 412
This syllabus is a living document and changes occasionally, depending on what’s going on in the course. If you print it out, you’ll need to keep your paper version up to date with the online version. I will always announce important changes in class.
There are three required books for the course.
Besides the books, all readings that aren’t already online (and some that are) will be available through the class Zotero library. This will be discussed in class, but for reference, please see the instructions for connecting. The URL for the group library is https://www.zotero.org/groups/1647225/food-tech-society-unm/library.
Today we’ll review the syllabus, course aims, assignments, Zotero, and general plan for the semester.
Background to skim
The point of this coupling of readings is to canvas the broad spectrum of visions of food production—one a global lab-driven research effort, and the other centered on the idyllic agrarian yeoman. Some discussion questions for class: What’s the difference between food grown in the ground and food produced in the lab? Does all food boil down to chemistry? Is the food production system described by Warner antithetical to Jefferson’s vision, or evidence of its success?
- Melanie Warner, Pandora’s Lunchbox, xiii–xix; 1–20 (Weird Science). This is a super quick read.
- Jennifer Wallach, How America Eats, 89–100 (Chapter 4: Technology and Taste).
Background to skim
- Wilbur O. Atwater, “The Chemistry of Food and Nutrition: The Composition of Our Bodies and Our Food,” Century Illustrated Magazine 34 (May 1887): 59–74.
Skim but don’t totally skip the science details. What’s the point of all of it? How does metaphor play a role? What larger cultural phenomenon does this article represent?
Natural and Pure Food
- Nicholas Bauch, A Geography of Digestion, 46–76 (Scientific Eating) and 77–101 (Flaked Cereal) [ONLINE]
- Ann Vileisis, Kitchen Literacy, 96–125 (chap. 5: “A new longing for nature”).
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 97–105; 140–46 (chapters 9 and 14).
- Anna Zeide, Canned, 1–40.
- Anna Zeide, Canned, 74–134.
- Anna Zeide, Canned, 135–162.
- Anna Zeide, Canned, 163–194.
Fresh and Pure Foods
- Susanne Frieberg, Fresh, 1–48 (intro and chapter 1).
- Gabriella M. Petrick, “‘Purity as Life:”, 37–57.
Sugar and Saccharine
- Carolyn Thomas Peña, Empty Pleasure, Chapter 1: 13–38.
- Carolyn Thomas Peña, Empty Pleasure, Chapter 5: 141–175; Conclusion: 219–228.
- Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 3–66.
- Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 67–97.
- Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 98–146.
- Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 147–166.
Mar 17 and 19: SPRING BREAK
- Amy Bentley, “Inventing Baby Food: Gerber and the Discourse of Infancy in the United States,” 92–109.
- First-half (+ this week) review quiz
- Michael Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat, 45–67 (Convenience with a Capital C).
- Warren Belasco, Appetite for Change, 29–42 (Radical Consumerism); 111–131 (War of the Metaphors).
DUE: Executive Summary
Come to class with your executive summaries of the rise of convenience foods as discussed in the course so far. As discussed, excellent summary will draw widely from relevant readings and class discussions. Consult the Executive Summary Writing Guide.
- No required reading for today, but start reading ahead for Thursday
- LECTURE: The Origins of “Organic”
Lecture background (for skimming):
- Michael Pollan, Omnivore’s Dilemma, 134–184 (Big Organic).
- McKay Jenkins, Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the America, 1–46 (Prologue; Are GMOs Safe?).
- McKay Jenkins, Food Fight: GMOs and the Future of the America, 47–76 (The Long, Paved Road to Industrial Food).
DUE: GMO website analysis
You’ll critique a website that discusses whether GMOs are safe. Consult the website analysis guide. As with all your assignments, the goal is to put the course to use in addressing ‘real-world’ discussions about food production issues. The best essays will draw together various themes from the course.
- LECTURE: What is natural food?
Background to skim
- Roger Horowitz, Putting Meat on the Table, 129–154 (Convenient meat).
- Reading quiz
- Marion Nestle, Food Politics, 295–314 (Fortification and marketing).
- Melanie Warner, Pandora’s Lunchbox, 97–123 (Better living through chemistry).
- Steve Ettlinger, Twinkie, Deconstructed, skim 13–28; 29–44.
Conclusions and Advice for the Final