American Food: A Global History (Gen Ed 1147)



Histories, Societies, Individuals icon with text

Joyce Chaplin

Europeans "discovered'' America in search of foodstuffs, specifically spices. And food has been central to the American experience from the starving time in early Virginia to the problem of obesity in the United States today. But what is American about American food? How have individual food choices and national food policies connected Americans to the larger world, both the social worlds of other human beings and the natural world of all other living beings? If we could recover how historical foods tasted, what would those tastes tell us about the past? This course will, among other things, experiment with that possible recovery of sensory experience. Each week, students will sample a “past” food. Some of these items are supposed to be delicious; others will be odd, if not unpleasant—all these sensations are historically significant. Readings will include primary and secondary sources, and assignments will include three short papers, a mid-term exam, and either a final exam or an individual research paper or project.