Food History is one of the four required core classes for the Gastronomy program. It has traditionally been taught as an online or blended course, but this semester, the class was held in a traditional, classroom-based setting. The course was taught by Historian Kyri Claflin (who looks remarkably like an older version of Isla Fisher). I had imagined that the course would be organized chronologically, focusing in on the major turning points in the history of food, but instead, the course was organized by themes (nature & technology, movement, and culture & cuisine).
The main assignment for the course was our class blog, which we were required to contribute to five times throughout the semester. However, don’t let the term “blog post” fool you. These were 1,000 word research papers, which just happened to be submitted via WordPress. We were also required to actively comment (and reply to comments) on each other’s posts. In grad school, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to read your classmates writing, so this was actually a really cool advantage of incorporating a blog.
The frequency of our research papers (“blog posts”) seemed burdensome at first (every other week for ten weeks), but it was such a relief not to have a 20-page paper waiting for me at the end of April (as is the case in most other Gastronomy classes). Additionally, this format allowed me to research a variety of topics that interested me (from the history of food preservation to the history of vegetarianism), rather than being stuck with just one topic.
Most of my other graduate classes have been anchored by student-facilitated discussion, but (whether due to the transition from online to classroom based, or the teaching style of the instructor) discussion was not as strong in this course. Nonetheless, there were other opportunities to learn. The most popular class, hands-down, was when Nawal Nasrallah, a scholar and food writer came and prepared historic Iraqi recipes for us. The food was delicious, the speaker was delightful, and the topic was interesting. But after two years in the program, it should come as no surprise that the best way to learn about a cuisine is by eating it!