I came to the Gastronomy program to understand people’s relationship with food from a new perspective, and, little did I know at the time, Food Anthropology was the perfect place for me to start. Food Anthropology is one of the 4 required core classes for the Gastronomy program, along with Introduction to Food: Theory and Methodology, History of Food, and Food and the Senses.
Coming from a rigid science background, I was suspicious that Food Anthropology was just fluff. Sure, anthropology involves data collection and analysis. But studying the culture of how people eat… is that really academic?
I was in for a treat. My class was led by Professor Carole Counihan, an entertaining and well established anthropologist with an extensive background in Italian food culture, among other things. Our main assignment was to complete an ethnographic research project of a food place using participant observation, interviewing, and a literature review. The project was shaped through class discussions over various landmark food studies literature, where ideas, theories, and processes could be taken back to our own research.
My favorite part of the class was the readings. The various ethnographies of restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores, and other food spaces provided valuable insight on why people choose to eat what they do. I learned about the various emotions, traditions, and functions associated with food for people across a variety of cultures and time periods, and I am a better Dietitian because of it. If any of you are interested in Food Anthropology, Counihan’s Food and Culture Reader just came out with a 3rd edition.
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