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WGSS 120: Women, Food and Culture: You and your foodstuff

Foodstuff Assignment

Pick a food item that you have eaten.  Research its history paying particular attention to: 

-the first evidence of its use as a foodstuff

-how it was first produced and any  significant changes in its production up to the present day

-what sort of labor is required in its production

-if it has been identified with a particular ethnic group or nationality and what has happened to it as it has moved to other countries

-is its production, preparation, or consumption gendered, ie more frequently done by  men or women?

-if it has taken on any metaphoric cultural meanings (eg is used in a familiar phrase, like  “You’re the apple of my eye.”

-analyzing any myths or origin stories

-if it has been involved in discussions of globalization or GMOs



Foodstuff Research

When doing your research, consider the following possible ways to discover the history and cultural significance of food:

1. Review cookbooks about the food. Some cookbook, especially those about a single food item, will often include a history of it.

2. Look for books or articles about the history of the key ingredient in the dish. If you are making corn tortillas, look for information about the history of corn and its uses as a food.  Check out this list of books about one food items.

3. Look for books and articles about regional food. If you have chosen a dish that is distinctly regional - like New England clam chowder - books about the history of food in New England would likely have useful information.

4. Look for books and articles about regional history or social customs. Try a keyword search that combines the name of the country or geographic region with terms like social history, social aspects or social customs.

5. If you have chosen a popular food item, search for that dish. You should have little trouble finding books and articles on historically popular or culturally significant foods such as pizza, ice cream, chocolate or tea.

6. If the dish is affiliated with a holiday or has religious significance, look for books and articles about food and the holiday or the religion.