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