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Course Spotlight

History of Food (HS 299)

by Jim Tuten


During Spring term 2010 I am teaching the History of Food for the second time. The course takes a transnational view of the history of food from the Middle Ages to the twenty-first century. We examine food as a part of human experience including its roles as sustenance, commodity, cultural artifact, signifier of identity, and art.

The early emphasis of the course is on the global exchange of foods and cooking techniques. In the final third of the course we pay particular attention to the United States’ regional cuisines and food movements. Through the semester I use traditional aspects of history classes such as primary sources, scholarly texts and films. However, this topic offers some unique opportunities. We have several fieldtrips including a coffee cupping and attendance at a Passover Seder. The class also gets together to cook and eat several times. What I like best about the teaching the History of Food is the chance to engage all of the students' senses in class. As in all classes they look, listen and learn, but they get to taste, smell, and touch things in this course which really leavens their learning and spices up our course offerings.

Students wafting scents to test their palates at Standing Stone Coffee Company's Coffee Cupping.

Professor Tuten’s class was also the subject of a Campus News piece on March 15th, 2010: History on a Plate: New Course Looks at How Food Affected Culture, History