Food and Culture

Topics: Food politics, Local food, Nutrition Pages: 72 (27605 words) Published: June 24, 2013
Institute of European Studies and EU Center of Excellence 2010 Food Symposium K-14 Educational Resource Materials

As part of its public outreach activities, the Institute of European Studies (IES) at the University of California, Berkeley has developed curricular resource materials for K-14 educators, adapted from the proceedings of two IES events in 2010 that explored food cultures and histories. We hope these materials will serve as a point of departure for classroom discussions surrounding the topic of food in current and historical contexts for Europe and the U.S. These materials are available online at and also on the ORIAS website at

The material in this resource packet takes up food issues that may be familiar in their American forms to U.S. students and asks how they apply to European food production and eating trends. Interest in food issues and food studies has surged in recent years, both in popular culture and at universities. Much of the anxiety that accompanies this new interest relates to food’s changing context in an expanding global food system. That is to say, it has become more difficult to know where our food comes from, and consequently, harder to feel connected to it. While there is still interest in different culinary cultures and regional cuisines, attention has also focused on the ingredients that make up any dish or product: where they come from and how they are produced. These issues are reflected throughout in the summaries included in this resource packet. Chapter 1 is based on topics that arose during the April 2, 2010 panel discussion “Food, Culture and Identity in a Global Society.” Chapters 2 and 3 are based on presentations given during the April 30, 2010 symposium “Food: History and Culture in the West,” which brought together scholars from the U.S. and Europe. The following outline gives a brief overview of the chapter topics, followed by suggested ways to lead into a discussion into these topics.

CHAPTER 1. Food, Culture, and Identity in a Global Context
This chapter is based on a discussion about current international food politics and trends, focusing in particular on food’s cultural role and its potential to promote tolerance and diversity. Topic 1. Food as a Way of Promoting Tolerance and Diversity Preliminary Discussion Questions: • • • • • • What role does food play in people’s lives beyond nutrition? What kind of cultural conflicts or misunderstandings have arisen over national or regional food traditions? How can food highlight various ethnic, religious, or political differences between cultures? Alternately, how can food be used to bring different groups together across cultural differences? What is the role of cookbooks in defining and legitimizing national, regional, and ethnic food cultures? One possible activity is to look at cookbooks from various cuisines in class, explore the kind of information conveyed in a cookbook and discuss how to read it. Students can also discuss differences and similarities in cookbooks that represent food from bordering geographical regions on the one hand (Mexican and Central American, Mediterranean, or Asian cuisines, for example) or compare cuisines of countries with different climates and geographies. Students can also bring in their own recipes and talk about different ways of learning to cook—learning and practicing with family and friends, following recipes, watching TV cooking shows—and also think about what is lost or gained in each method.

IES Food Resource Materials, 2

Topic 2. More on Food and Identity (Individual and Collective) Preliminary Discussion Questions: • What kinds of influences, beliefs, and needs beyond what tastes good influence your decisions about what to eat and what not to eat? • In what ways do your own eating habits differ from those of...

Links: version published sixteen years later, titled How to Eat Well and Stay Well the Mediterranean Way (1975).
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