Food Studies: the scholarship of what and how we eat discussion


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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello, everyone. I'm Sara, I'm a PhD candidate in literature, my dissertation is about food images and scenes in twentieth century fiction and poetry, and I work full-time and thus feel as through I'll never finish.

I have a blog that I use to for rambling about food and culture in ways that aren't necessarily connected to my dissertation.

I often feel a little isolated in my work--not just because I no longer work in or for a university, but also because I don't know too many people who are interested in food as a scholarly topic. I hope to bring such people to me through this medium: I'd love to hear second opinions on texts I loved or hated, to get more suggestions, and to help someone out in their own research if possible.

Say hello! Add some books!

message 2: by Dani (new)

Dani | 2 comments Hi Sara (and anyone else?)

I'm Dani, I do a lot of different work in the humanties soon to be back at the MA level. My current topic of choice is on food as a language socially and in (mostly) contemporary literature. I'm working on a grammar of food and balancing it with a sociolinguistic take as well. Two sides, one coin. I'm also looking into narrowing this to food themes in the literature of the Baltic/Scandinavian region- but that's just a side project to fill my summer for now. I have many, many books to add and look forward to reading the ones on the bookshelves.

I'm happy to have stumbled upon what I'm sure will be a veritable treasure trove of information. And good luck with that dissertation. I'll have a thesis of my own to write this academic year that I'm anxiously and masochistically waiting to dive into (CAN'T WAIT).

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Dani, welcome! I am intrigued by the idea of a "grammar" of food and hope to hear more as your project develops. Now that I know you're looking for reading suggestions, I'll be sure to add more to the shelf--I joined Goodreads long after I started my dissertation reading, so I have many opinions on books I've not yet listed. Right now, though, I highly recommend /Foodies/ by Johnston and Baumann, listed on this group's shelf. They've got a really solid framework for describing and theorizing "foodie" discourse that seems highly applicable to other kinds of discourse as well.

message 4: by Emily (new)

Emily (emilycontois) | 1 comments Thanks so much for getting this group started, Sara!

I got my MPH focused in Public Health Nutrition at UC Berkeley and am about to enter my second year in the MLA Gastronomy/Food Studies program at Boston University. I research food visual culture throughout the twentieth century, food pop culture, and the connections between food studies, public health, and nutrition. I'm hoping to move on to a PhD in American or Cultural Studies in 2013. What program are you in, Sara?

Johnston and Baumann's text was required reading for our theory and methods course and while they do utilize a sold framework, they're overall discussion is limited by the sources that the chose.

I'll work to add books to our list. There are so many texts now that Food Studies is beginning to become more established as a new "studies" field, hopefully soon to join the ranks of queer studies, gender studies, women's studies, etc. as more permanent facets within the academic community.

I'm looking forward to our discussions!

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Emily. The internet is a small place! You probably know Rachel Black, one of the authors published by the press that I do marketing for. I hope to hear more about your program. As mentioned, my experience of pursuing food has been rather isolated, a lot of energy expended on explaining why it's worth examining in the first place, and formulating arguments only to discover months and months later that someone else wrote something similar already. I can't quite conceive of having a cohort with shared interests and pooled knowledge in my field, as I would have in my own program if I pursued, say, psychoanalysis or German philosophy. I am at Temple in Philadelphia.

message 6: by Roberta (new)

Roberta | 1 comments Hi Emily, Sara and Dani
Great to hear about your studies and areas of interest. I completed a matser of arts in Gastronomy through the University of Adelaide in 2003 - while working fulltime, so I empathise with you Sara! The most exciting thing for me was the wealth of new books it introduced me to - my library shelves grew in leaps and bounds. I've added just a few of the ones I found most useful - and can add mor eif you like (but didn't want to overwhelm you).
Dani - I have aparticular interest in the link between food and language (my undergraduate degree was in linguistics and its always been a passion of mine). My dissertation "What's Cooking?" was about whether or not 'cooking' necessitated the application of heat (it was a bit of fun). You can view it from a link at the very bottom of my web page
Since completing my degree I've written a small book on cheese (another passion) which covers the history and mythology of all the world's great cheeses as well as some of the lesser known ones.
For the past 2 years I've been working on A Sardinian Cookbook (co-written with a chef from Sardinia) which I managed to cram a lot of history and sociology in to as well as delicious recipes.
Enough for now - great to 'meet' you all - I look forward to hearing more about what you're reading.

message 7: by K (new)

K (karazhans) Greetings,
Unlike the remainder of you all I have no formal training on anything related to food. The most I have is documentaries from Netflix, a few college biology courses, and my enjoyment in watching Good Eats with Alton Brown. I looked into this group, going in thinking it was something else, but now I'm intrigued by the posts here. Quite interesting.

I have, as of recent months, been studying dietary problems associated with disease and health. I wrote a small article titled Cancer Hazards of Poor Nutrition and a Genetically Engineered Diet which delves into an analysis of principles and outcomes of cancer involving diet and genetically engineered food.

The advance of genetic engineering, done correctly, will advance human society greatly. The positive aspects of such endeavors provide substantial gains in a plethora of avenues. It is important to note the inevitability of genetic engineering and indeed, the benefits that will come with mass acceptance.

Having said that, from the perspective gained by the average knowledgeable consumer, the current corporate entities that provide the services of genetic manipulation are not the optimal leaders. From numerous articles and documentaries such as the critically acclaimed Food Inc. (,_Inc.), the analysis of the industrial production of grains and vegetables could be deemed economically and environmentally unsustainable. The heath of these products has also come under great scrutiny. Monsanto allegedly has banned GMO foods from their own cafeteria. Might that potentially be suggestive of something?(

The legal entities that encompass the Monsanto brand are complex. They are often the target of class action lawsuits as farmers are bullied by the corporation. The World According to Monsanto ( provides a look into the controversies involving application and promotion of genetically-modified seeds. The governmental policy is no match for the corporate giant. Take a peak at this chart identifying the reach that they have. GMO food CAN and has the potential to be a boon, but like many things, it can work well in theory, but in practice, it's just the old story of corruption, control, a fowl play...

It is up for the educated public to decide the course of the future of genetic engineering.

message 8: by Dani (new)

Dani | 2 comments Hi Kopec --

Netflix and food network are a winning combination! Just a quick note to say welcome and a longer, more thoughtful response (once I've tackled to hose articles) will follow. Although, in the face of a rise of terroir--taste of place-- and the "locavore" movement (it makes me shudder to type that), yours is a very interesting stance. Now, these things definitely don't have to be mutually exclusive Genetically modified food v. a return to "natural" (again, shudder) but they have definitely been set up in severe opposition. I wonder how your experience in biology courses has guided most strongly the lens through which you view food and its possibilities.

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

Kopec wrote: "Greetings,
Unlike the remainder of you all I have no formal training on anything related to food. The most I have is documentaries from Netflix, a few college biology courses, and my enjoyment in ..."

Hi Kopec, could I persuade you to repost your links/suggestions as a new discussion thread? The focus of this group will be food scholarship, and though I imagine that contemporary food issues are of interest to several among our small number, let's keep such things in separately labelled discussions so new members can choose what to engage with.

message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for all the new books on the group shelf, members! Some of them I've been quite curious about, so I'm pleased to see your comments on them. Once I have some time to catch up, I'd be interested in starting new discussions about particular books.

message 11: by Rozzer (new)

Rozzer | 2 comments Hi, everyone. I was searching for a group like yours and was lucky enough to find you. I've been seriously interested in the history and sociology of food for quite some time and look forward to reading more of your interesting posts. Myself, I have no agenda or point to make: I'm just interested in learning and discussions. I have a number of what I think are good books to add to the list. I assume you've all been thinking about other discussions to start here and look forward to taking part.

message 12: by Andrew (new)

Andrew (holeyknight) | 1 comments Hi everyone,
I am not an academic, but I am a professional Chef who has always been interested in history. After reading Salt: A World History I realized that the history of food could be as interesting as the history of exploration, politics and wars... in fact, it is many times the impetus of those wars. I'm always looking for new things to broaden my food horizons.

message 13: by Shari (new)

Shari | 1 comments Mod
Hello I'm Shari,
My academic program is MAPH, one where we situate our individual topics of research into a humanities context. (Anyone intrigued by this please ask me about if for more.) While pursuing my academic topic, architecture and philosophy, I have also maintained a distraction by writing a food blog with a longtime friend.

My interest in the intersection of food practices and sociology drives the structure of our site. (though I'm not sure that shows) The site is meant to be descriptive, not proscriptive, and therefore a demonstration in an Althusserian way of our family practices and to question how we ever get outside our initial practices or ideologies to impact our families actual nutrition. It is a practical concern, being aware of our own family practices. But the intractable socio-economic policy problems that impact children's nutrition and possible health outcomes are a struggle to define. Is it geography, food access, nutrition education, food dollars per family, personal palate and choice, family work patters, public transportation? All of these could be and have been variously and questionably blamed. I am interested in what is crafting our tastes and choices, and hope to illuminate this simply by demonstration.

As we live in different communities with different family size and make-up, we hoped our practices would reflect the impact on nutrition made through geography, urban scale, food availability, and palate. ( I came into this from an interest in 18th century aesthetics and the both abstract and literal cultivation of "taste" - fortunately that also does not show on the site. It's quite a David Hume niche) Working with this tone in a public oriented way has been our challenge.

To demonstrate different practices we write as much as possible about that which shapes our choices and frustrations. We hope to add additional views/authors so that the differences, and economic structures, driving our practices open up the discussion.

Our readership is largely other student parents at the universities we have attended. As a on and off working student parent myself - who will one day finish?!? - we have found others interested in food practices in the academic community, but we are not limited to the university atmosphere. Our writing is not academic at all. It is my alt-topic-passion-when-not-writing-about-architecture site. I have looked mostly to medical and nutrition journals for my inspiration and collect relevant news stories on the facebook version of my pen name "Urban View". With that extremely long caveat, the site is What I Fed My Child, and is admittedly completely unscientific in method. (neither of us is a sociologist, she is a Banker)

Thank you for making this an academic focused group. I need to improve my own scholarship on this in order to have any sociologic discussion arise for what drives our food and cooking decision making. We are not there yet. But it has been a great side outlet. It could be so much better.

On my own unrelated thesis, I am through the research stage (though I said that in the Spring also, and am now doing more with Heidegger) So its a good time to think academically about this side project, sure it is. Of course it is.

(You will finish Sara! you will!)

I like my plate full, as it were.

message 14: by Louis (new)

Louis | 1 comments Hey guys,

I'm Louis, a once-PhD candidate for philosophy, interested in the philosophy of food. Well, after doing a Fulbright in Germany, I realized I really just wanted to skip academia and open my own bistro. So I just returned home to Pittsburgh, where I got a couple cooking jobs to pay the bills, and will be selling my own food in as many different ways as possible to have fun, feed my interest in cooking, get my name and food out to the public stomach (as it were), and have fun!

I love food literature, so ya, I have a few suggestions!

message 15: by Nick (new)

Nick Hawes | 2 comments Hello all!

I am Nick and have a MA in Anthropology. While food was not my primary focus of study, it is an area of great interest to me. My focus was in Medical Anthropology and Nutritional Anthropology (the term we use for the sub-field of anthropology that studies food) is very closely related as medicines are also foods.

I am really excited to have found this forum as this is such a great topic. Let me suggest the following book: The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan. This is not a food book, as could well have guessed. I offer it as a suggestion because in it, he spends a good deal of time talking about the importance of Cod, as a food source, for world history and social, political, and economic events and how climate change over the centuries has effected this vitally important resource. It's really a fascinating look at a food and I think takes any discussion of food down all new paths...

Look forward to discussing with you all and investigating your recommendations!

message 16: by Jon (last edited Dec 11, 2013 11:02AM) (new)

Jon Laiche (jglaiche) | 3 comments Hello everyone and best wishes during this joyous time of the year! My name is Jerry Laiche and I am a retired history teacher and as you will see if you follow the links below I am currently working culinary historian. I am attaching my bio below, and always looking for new leads and new viewpoints about the work I have chosen to pursue an retirement. This group looks promising and I hope to share many ideas with you over the next few years.

message 18: by Jon (new)

Jon Laiche (jglaiche) | 3 comments Link to my just posted review on Goodreads:

Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America Thomas Jefferson's Creme Brulee: How a Founding Father and His Slave James Hemings Introduced French Cuisine to America by Thomas J. Craughwell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thomas J. Craughwell. Thomas Jefferson’s Creme Brûlée Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2012.

One of the ongoing requirements when one claims to be a culinary historian is the infamous"survey of the field”. Thus I found myself excited one evening at the local bookstore when I stumbled upon Mr. Craughwell’s “Jefferson’s Crème Brûlée”. Not only am I a lifelong admirer of Thomas Jefferson and have read much about his life and career but I am also in the midst of composing a culinary history. Needless to say, I scooped up the book and walked out of the bookstore beaming and thrilled to have a point of reference for my work.

At first though, I was a bit upset as I began to read. A culinary history ? I asked myself. There's hardly anything in here about food or cooking, although the theme of the book is Jefferson's trip to France, his investigation into the cuisine of France and the relationship he had with his slave and cook James Hemings. However as the book progressed it reads like an overall survey of Jefferson's diplomatic trip to France. Now I had already read about all this in numerous works on Jefferson and so was familiar with the basic outline of the time he spent in Europe. Where were the recipes? Where was the chronicle of James Hemings’ training as a cook in Paris? Where was the analysis of Thomas Jefferson's common books regarding which foods he wanted to bring back to America?

Mr. Craughwell’s book contained a lot of - well, he probably did this, they probably ate that, they may have used this recipe, he may have had these people over for dinner, he may have bragged about James’ skill in the kitchen, but none of this wasmore than speculation nor verified by any sources. There was little discussion, if any, as to what foods they actually ate and how those foods were actually cooked. Needless to say, I was a bit put off by all of this but then I realized when comparing it to my own work that what my sources produce compared to what Mr. Craughwell sources are, there is not that much actual discussion of food in the records.

I was guilty of the same thing Mr. Craughwell presented. My book is based upon probability. However, I like to think that my researches into actual foods present in French colonial Louisiana and actual spices present, as well as what the French normally used in the 18th century kitchen. Also, discussions of smuggling and of markets and of the creation of New Orleans and it’s Creole culture are all based on valid historical sources both primary and secondary. Not to say that Mr. Craughwell did not do his homework but it does not come across as such. So lesson learned - I need to make sure I come across as such. Anyway back to Mr. Craughwell’s book.

The main body of the book, the text itself, is a fine account of Jefferson's trip to France. It includes a limited discussion of James’ career in Paris as an apprentice chef. But it is not very detailed. All in all, the text, beyond the trip to France, is a bunch of “probably”. The culinary matter of the work is relegated to a 30 page appendix where Jefferson’s vegetable garden, his wine cellar, and some of his recipes are presented. The recipes are only slightly useful as they are screenshots of Jefferson’s actual common books as well as other works and recipes from the time. Unfortunately, they are all hand written and being scans or screenshots of such documents, can be difficult to read

CONCLUSION: if you would like a thorough account of Jefferson's trip to France with a nod toward the foodstuffs and culinary ideas he acquired while there, this is a good read. As a culinary history it falls a little bit short. Even though it does make up for it somewhat in the Appendix. There is no category listed on the dust jacket as on some books but on the cover it says “How a founding father and his slave James Hemings introduced French cuisine to America” and that subtitle does come up somewhat short. It's easy to read but not very informative to anyone who has studied Thomas Jefferson to any extent and certainly not very informative as to the cuisine that it claims to cover.

View all my reviews

message 19: by Morgan (new)

Morgan | 3 comments Hi, my name is Morgan. I just saw a notification for this on my Goodreads app, should be studying, but in reading the introductions decided I could learn a thing or two here. I am one of the few and proud males named Morgan that remain. I am hilarious, can't help myself, and am in my 4th year of undergrad in Agronomy at The Auburn University (WDE). In brief, I have interests closely related to the topic titling this group, but may fade out if discussion don't get meaty, such as brief historical morsels... those would be sweet.

Aside from being hysterical, I plan on doing a focus in Plant Breeding in grad school. I often find myself unsure what to think about GMO's and those that abhor them, but may be able to provide the group with statistically-backed facts as well as source info as in any given debate on related subjects. To wrap this up, I loved reading all those "Redwall Series" books as a child, and wanted to add that the food grammar Mr. Jacques utilizes is quite delectable...

message 20: by Morgan (new)

Morgan | 3 comments I just read Jerry's post/review on the Jefferson's Trip to France book... for Jerry, I like Jefferson too! (though I am anything but a historian at this point) I just started

message 21: by Morgan (new)

Morgan | 3 comments ... just recently got the chance to start The Art of Power by Jon Meacham... very excited.

message 22: by Odette (new)

Odette Cortés (roguexunited) | 2 comments Hello, my name is Odette. I am currently writing my thesis for my English literature degree and I decided to go the food studies route.
As a foodie, when I first picked up Jack Kerouac's On the Road I was pleasantly surprised on his detail on food. Therefore when it came to choosing a book to analyze I chose his.
Right now I am struggling a bit in the writing department, mostly in the introduction. No ideas are coming to inspire me. So I googled food, literature and thesis, and it very kindly redirected me to this group. I hope to find here kindred spirits that are enthusiastic about food and literature.

message 23: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Duff (aliciaduff) | 4 comments Greetings, my name is Alicia. I don't have any formal background on the topic of food scholarship. I'm interested in this group because I seek to gain a better perspective of food choices personally and socially. I would like to spend time analyzing the relationship of people and food in order to gain insight on the contemporary issues emerging. Most of my reading choices focusing on food scholarship will come from our group bookshelf and member recommendations.

message 24: by Odette (new)

Odette Cortés (roguexunited) | 2 comments Hi Alicia, I recommend you should start with this book, it is a collection of poems, prose, memoirs and recipes written, either by chefs, poets or writers. It is not very technical, but each author approaches the subject of food individually or socially. Hope you like it.

Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal

Alicia wrote: "Greetings, my name is Alicia. I don't have any formal background on the topic of food scholarship. I'm interested in this group because I seek to gain a better perspective of food choices personall..."

message 25: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Duff (aliciaduff) | 4 comments Odette,

Thank you for the recommendation! I'm adding the book to my to-read list. I'll update you on my thoughts once I make reading progress. This will be my first book on this topic so I think it will fit my understanding without overwhelming me with technical info. Thanks again!

message 26: by Aparna (new)

Aparna Gangopadhyay (aumaparna) | 1 comments Greetings!

I am Aparna from India and I am an organic food and spices enthusiast. I often write articles on the harmful effects of processed food and encourage my readers to go organic. I have recently compiled an ebook on the goodness and health benefits of Organic spices with their Asian names.

Do let me know of some more ideas/ suggestions on how I can take up this battle of introducing healthy food worldwide...and win it too.

Here is the link:

message 27: by Fred (new)

Fred Gales | 1 comments Asian or Indian names ? And are you writing from an Ayurvedic perspective ?

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