UNV 100: Social and Cultural History of Food

Dr. Guluma Gemeda, Fall 2015

Course Description

Using food as a theme, the course engages students in rigorous academic work. Food is a convenient topic to discuss multidisciplinary issues involving history, economics, politics, health, nutrition, and cultures. Food is particularly convenient to learn our common heritage and cultural diversity. Obviously, that we need food for our sustenance requires no explanation. But studying why we like or dislike certain types of food, what we eat or what we avoid to eat, how we prepare our meals and consume food is fascinating. Our choice of food could reveal a lot about consumption, are shaped by various factors including cultural background, history, religion, environment, etc. What we eat tells stories about us - our social backgrounds and complex identities and cultures. An African proverb, which is also echoed in many other cultures, says " a person is what he eats." Food is an identity marker as well as a unifier.

This course examines how food shaped human societies and identities. Particularly, is focuses on how America eats and how dietary habits changed overtime while shaping and being shaped by immigration, politics, and evolving technologies. To some extent, the course highlights the history of three food crops - maize (corn), rice, and coffee. These crops originated (first domesticated) at different places, but they are now consumed all over the globe. Through group projects, the course explores contemporary issues related to the production and consumption of corn, rice, and coffee. In general, this course encourages students to reflect on contemporary food production and consumption systems, changing dietary habits and food-related health issues. Using lectures, group discussions, field trips, individual and group projects, the course explores our food ways - production, distribution, and consumption patterns and social issues. Finally, by completing this course students will have the opportunity to share their favorite family recipes, foods, and stories.

--Syllabus for UNV 100: Social and Cultural History of Food, Fall 2015

Course Objectives and Goals

Course Goals and Objectives:

This course help students to:

  • learn about and actively interact with the community
  • learn how to write research papers using the library and other resources
  • improve their writing skills and learn how to produce competent written work
  • use multiple perspectives to explore cultural differences and similarities through food
  • think critically, reflect on ones heritage and understand others through their cuisines
  • apply knowledge to understand and meet the societal challenges such as hunger, nutrition, and food-related health care issues

--Syllabus for UNV 100: Societal and Cultural History of Food, Fall 2015

Required Books

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Liz Svoboda
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