21W.730-2 Expository Writing - Food for Thought: Writing and Reading about Food and Culture

Fall 2005

Still Life with Plate of Cherries, 1885-87, Paul Cezanne.
Still life with plate of cherries, 1885-87. Paul Cézanne. (Image courtesy of the WebMuseum.)

Course Highlights

This course features samples of student work in the assignments section.

Course Description

"Civilization is mostly the story of how seeds, meats, and ways to cook them travel from place to place." - Adam Gopnik, "What's Cooking."

"A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one's accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes." - Wendell Berry, "The Pleasures of Eating."

If you are what you eat, what are you? Food is at once the stuff of life and a potent symbol; it binds us to the earth, to our families, and to our cultures. The aroma of turkey roasting or the taste of green tea can be a portal to memories, while too many Big Macs can clog our arteries. The chef is an artist, yet those who pick oranges or process meat may be little more than slaves. In this class, we will explore many of the fascinating issues that surround food as both material fact and personal and cultural symbol. We will read essays by Chang-Rae Lee, Francine du Plessix Gray, M. F. K. Fisher, Anthony Bourdain, and others on such topics as family meals, the art and science of cooking, fair trade, eating disorders, and food's ability to awaken us to "our own powers of enjoyment" (M. F. K. Fisher). We will also read Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and view one or more films or videos as a class. Assigned essays will grow out of memories and the texts we read, and will include personal narratives and essays that depend on research. Workshop review of writing in progress and revision of essays will be an important part of the course.

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Staff

Instructor:
Prof. Karen Boiko

Course Meeting Times

Lectures:
Two sessions / week
1.5 hours / session

Level

Undergraduate