Food is a biological essential for humans, but one that has been elaborated and transformed in many ways through history, and given a variety of cultural signatures. This course will consider food from a variety of perspectives. In doing so, it will emphasize how food can only be understood when examined from the point of view of different disciplines. It will also serve as a medium for promoting critical thinking and quantitative skills, particularly through exercises in data collection, basic statistics and interpretation of results.
Topics considered will include: the measurement, origin and development of animal and human food preferences; the history of food production (particularly agriculture and domestication) in humans; basic human nutrition; taste, smell and flavor; the cultural history of specific foods, including meat, milk, chocolate, chili pepper, tomatoes, potatoes and corn; the function of food in daily life in a range of cultures including hunter-gatherers, and contemporary India, France and the USA; famine and the modern food distribution system; the cultural evolution of cuisine; food marketing; the epidemiological evolution and its effect on the diet-health link and the way people think about food and health; basic statistics and the evaluation of clinical trial and other forms of evidence for a link between diet and health; the challenge of nutrition and food choice in American inner cities; developed world concerns about long term effects of diet; attitudes to natural foods and genetic engineering; the regulation of food intake; body image, obesity and eating disorders; aspects of the politics and economics of food; evaluation of how food functions as a symbol; ambivalence to food; the emotion of disgust; and vegetarianism.
Most reading will be from secondary sources, but a number of original empirical articles from the diet-health, historical, psychological, and anthropological literature will be included.
Course evaluation is from a series of about eight short papers and projects, plus a class wide research exploration of one particular topic (for Spring 2015, the special topic will have something to do with nuts). The course will have about 8 guest lecturers from many disciplines, and will include at least four outside eating experiences (Burmese food, modern molecular cuisine, etc.) and a trip to a dairy and pig rearing facility.
To apply to this course, please complete and return this document to Dr. Rozin. Completion instructions can be found inside the document.