COOL CLASSES: “You Are What You Eat? Eating and Identity”

COOL CLASSES: “You Are What You Eat? Eating and Identity”

Class name: “You Are What You Eat? Eating and Identity”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing and Writing Fellow Elizabeth Blake


Here’s what Blake had to say about her course:

When we think about the study of food, we often think of practical and ethical questions: how it is grown, how it is processed, and how it makes its way to our plates. Turning instead to the ways we think, talk, and write about food, this class considers the way food practices and the discourses that surround them can unite families, consolidate ethnic identity, reinforce class boundaries, and even express gender. Our texts range from novels like Ntozake Shange’s Sassafrass, Cypress & Indigo and poems like Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” to cookbooks, cooking shows, and the ephemera of political controversies. At the end of the class, we’ll be producing a cookbook of our very own, with recipes and essays that build on research and writing—as well as some eating—that we’ve done throughout the semester.

I created this class because I wanted to teach a course that combines traditional literary study with the close reading of texts from everyday life. The modes of analysis and critique we practice in a classroom setting are vital tools for understanding the world we live in, and I’m invested in a pedagogy that involves taking those tools outside the classroom as well. If asked, most people are aware that cookbooks are most often written and read by women, but haven’t thought—for example—about the kinds of gendered personas that are negotiated on their pages, or about how the inclusion of a specific ingredient might operate as a marker of race or class. For example, if one vinaigrette has shallots and fresh-squeezed orange juice, how is it different from another that has red onion and lemon from a squeeze bottle?

To paraphrase French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, what we eat can tell us who we are, but how we talk about what we eat might tell us more. This course offers both a critical engagement with and a celebration of those discourses, as we consider the sustaining power of cultural tradition. A lot of the work of a writing seminar involves learning to write within the academic tradition; in this class, we also write within a culinary tradition, and the cookbook we’ll make at the end brings those two discourses together—inm a document we’re hoping to share with the entire Haverford community!


See what other courses the Writing Program is offering this semester.

The class sampled cookies from this year’s Family Circle election cookie contest contestants (Clinton’s oatmeal chocolate chip versus Trump’s star cookie). Photo by Patrick Montero.

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *