Schedule of Readings and Assignments


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. If you keep a browser tab open all semester, make sure you refresh it when you go to look up the next assignment and reflection prompt. I will always announce important changes in class.

Required Readings

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

1: Introductions

Jan 17 (MLK)

Jan 19

Today we’ll review the syllabus, course aims, assignments, Zotero, and general plan for the semester. We’ll also discuss the problematic nature of natural food as a way of considering some key issues we’ll be discussing throughout the semester.

Jan 21

Today we’re looking at a couple of very different takes on the necessity and utility of food science. Why are these so different? Where do such divergent views come from?

  • Melanie Warner, Pandora’s Lunchbox, xiii–xix; 1–20 (Weird Science). This is a super quick read, but what do you think she thinks of food technology?

  • Feeding the World Today and Tomorrow: The Importance of Food Science and Technology. We’re focused just on the beginning part of a LONG defense of Food Science and Technology. What are the assumptions that go into the introductory sections that frame the justification of technological progress?

For class: What do you think of Warner’s definition of processed food? What are the aspirations of food scientists? How are economies of scale intimately tied to our understanding of natural food? What are key transportation developments that influenced what and how we eat? What’s the difference between food grown in the ground and food produced in the lab? Does all food boil down to chemistry?

2: Industrializing Food (see new book)

Jan 24

  • Jennifer Wallach, How America Eats, 89–100 (Chapter 4: Technology and Taste; notice the chapter goes to 110, so don’t read the whole PDF).

  • Medical Adviser 17 (1824), “Dyspepsia” (258 - top of 260).

Jan 26

cronon 1 and half of 2.

Jan 28

  • Ann Vileisis, Kitchen Literacy, 96–125 (chap. 5: “A new longing for nature”).

How were relationships to nature changing toward the end of the 19th century? Did people want to get back to nature? How could they? What were consequences for how food was represented and marketed? There might be a quiz covering the first two weeks of class. Refreshing your mind of the readings and discussions could be useful.

Week 3:

Jan 31

(sort of biotech theme)

  • Nicholas Bauch, A Geography of Digestion, 77–101 (Flaked Cereal) [ONLINE] (also possible is Systemization of Ag, but I need to see other book first)

Kellogg primary reading

Feb 2

Anna Zeide, Canned, 1–9; 10–40.

Feb 4

4: Pure Food

Feb 7

  • Gabriella M. Petrick, “‘Purity as Life: H.J. Heinz, religious sentiment, and the beginning of the industrial diet”, 37–57.

Feb 9

something from poison squad? maybe 2 and 4 ()

  • Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, 97–105; 140–46 (chapters 9 and 14). i think there is some other scholarly lit on this; see blum biblio

Feb 11

William Boyd, “Making Meat: Science, Technology, and American Poultry Production”, 631–664.

5: Milk

Feb 14

  • Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 1–11; 12–35; 36–66.

Feb 16

  • Kendra Smith-Howard, Pure and Modern Milk, 67–97; 98–120.

Feb 18


Week 6: Fresh Food

Feb 21

  • Susanne Freidberg, Fresh, 1–48 (intro and chapter 1).

Feb 23

Feb 25

Johnstone somewhere around here (from 1940)


  • Laura Shapiro, Something from the Oven, 3–40.

  • Laura Shapiro, Something from the Oven, 41–84.

Week 7:

Feb 28

Mar 2

Mar 4

Week 8: Sugar, Saccharine, and Risk

Mar 7

  • Carolyn Thomas Peña, Empty Pleasure, Chapter 1: 13–38.

Mar 9

  • Carolyn Thomas Peña, Empty Pleasure, Chapter 5: 141–175; Conclusion: 219–228.

Mar 11

  • NO CLASS: Get started on your Spring Break!

Week 9: Mar 14, 16, 18: SPRING BREAK

(no aps this week; no serentdpity th,f); research, other assignment to avoide class?

Week 10:

Mar 21

  • LECTURE: What have we done so far? Notice there is a quiz about what we have done so far.
  • First-half (+ this week) review quiz

Mar 23

  • Amy Bentley, “Inventing Baby Food: Gerber and the Discourse of Infancy in the United States,” 92–109.

Mar 25

11: Secret Ingredients

Mar 28

  • Michael Moss, Salt, Sugar, Fat, 45–67 (Convenience with a Capital C).

Mar 30

  • Marion Nestle, Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health, Chapter 10: “Science Versus Supplements”, 219–235; skim 236–244; 245–246. What specifically about the regulatory process of supplements might give you pause about their safety or efficacy?

Apr 1

  • Wendee Nicole, “Secret Ingredients”, Environmental Health Perspectives 121.6 (2013): A126–A133. This article is about food additives and the sketchy regulations (and the uses of science) that govern them and their safety. There’s a quote in the article: “Whether a food ingredient is GRAS (generally recognized as safe) depends on the general recognition of safety, not on safety per se”. What does that really mean? How is that true? What are the implications of GRAS for food safety and regulation?

12: Environmental Food

Apr 4

  • Alina Bradford, Rachel Carson: Life, Discoveries and Legacy.
  • Ralph H. Lutts, “Chemical Fallout: Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Radioactive Fallout, and the Environmental Movement.” Environmental Review 9.3 (1985): 211–25.
  • Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 5–13; 15–37.

Apr 6

  • Warren Belasco, Appetite for Change, 29–42 (Radical Consumerism); 111–131 (War of the Metaphors).

Apr 8

13: Big Organic

Apr 11,13,15

14: GMOs

Apr 18,20,22

  • 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).


Apr 25,27,29

Instagram food, presentation, identity, preservation

16: Global Industrialization

May 2,4,6


  • Marion Nestle, Food Politics, 295–314 (Fortification and marketing).
  • Melanie Warner, Pandora’s Lunchbox, 97–123 (Better living through chemistry).
  • Steve Ettlinger, Twinkie, Deconstructed, 13–44.