Will Post Food Article Make Professors Queasy?

Will Post Food Article Make Professors Queasy?

A Washington Post article by Jane Black chronicles the new academic interest in “Food Studies” in American universities. Whether this trend is driven by faculty “foodies,” a perceived need to credentialize the kitchens of expensive restaurants, or a genuine, um, hunger for knowledge remains to be seen.

The Post article is a tossed salad of college “cuisine and culture” courses and programs with distinctly different points of view.  Many, like the Yale Sustainable Food Project, seem to be of the “Think Globally; Eat Locally” variety, repositioning “Organic” agriculture in Environmental Studies, not quite clear about how these “sustainable” practices could be scaled-up sufficiently to feed a hungry urban world. 

Other courses are rooted in regional history, exploring regional cultural identity as much as climate, agricultural practices, soil composition, and culinary preferences.  These “Foodways” courses tend to cluster in American Studies, History, Anthropology, and Folklore programs, which have had food studies courses for decades.

Those established scholars of food history and cultures of cuisine may suffer acute academic indigestion from this sentence cooked up by Ms. Black:

Academic acceptance of interdisciplinary fields, such as American or women’s studies, has also paved the way for food’s debut as a legitimate subject.

“American or women’s studies” are illegitimate?

Don’t you love August? That’s when all the newspaper editors are on vacation, enjoying regional food.


Map of Place-Based Food Traditions from RAFT

One Response to “Will Post Food Article Make Professors Queasy?”

  1. foodvox Says:

    Thanks for linking to this article – I’d missed it somehow. 🙂

    The trend towards providing food studies programs in academia has been growing over the past ten years and though it may sound every bit as ridiculous as the word “foodie” sounds, the programs are actually driven by a true curiosity among people to know the world through the lens of food – one of the most basic things to any person or peoples – for many reasons: economic; philosophic; geo-politcially; etc etc.

    The first group interested in availing themselves of academic tools and support systems in food studies were not high school seniors seeking something cute and glossy to do with their lives nor was it the occasional foodie professor – rather it was the older group of men and women who had read MFK Fisher, who had teethed on Alice Waters, and who began to think of food-as-subject that did not belong merely on the “women’s pages”.

    To be a bit snotty for just a moment, most “foodies” would not have the sustained interest to want to undertake this course of studies – as “foodie” often is like something to stamp on the front of a T-shirt: an aspirational thing, a thing to flash around like a fake Rolex. Meow.

    There’s some good interdisciplinary thought coming from these programs – a moving of “thinking about food” into some interesting places. What can I say. I love the idea.

    Will it give the holders of the degree solid job opportunities at the end of it all? Probably not. But then how many degrees do?

    This is a great way to play if one can afford it, and it is subtly shifting the paradigm of how “we” as a society think of the things we eat. Pretty cool, overall.

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