MLLC 2013

The MLLC of 2013 examines questions such as: What is the role of fermentation in transforming plants into chocolate, wine, and bread? Why do onions make me cry? How does food connect us to invisible chemical, social, and ancestral communities? Do we taste more through the body or the mind, and where do the two intersect? What is the relationship between taste, consumption, and social inequality? Who benefits from food movements and how are they practiced on the ground?

Courses Include:

Food in Cultural and Social Contexts. Food exists at the intersections of culture, power, and history. This course explores a variety of frameworks for understanding food choices and constraints. We consider industrialized systems of food production and their implications for social life, and how responses to these systems have shifted not only dietary patterns, but also social relations and ideas about what counts as “good” food. We also focus on how the ritualized or politicized consumption of particular foods can affirm connections between invisible worlds and peoples of the past on the one hand, and contemporary life, place, and status in the physical present, on the other. We also critically examine contemporary food movements. Topics and issues to be addressed include food justice and problems of unequal access; “sustainable” farming, “slow” and “local” foods; food practices in the construction of identity; and the links between slavery, colonialism, and the emergence of the industrial food system. For this course, each student conducts weekly fieldwork off campus, and uses the ethnographic method to develop a food-related research project. Ms. Lowe-Swift

The Chemistry of Cuisine
Cuisine is a characteristic manner or style of preparing food that often involves cooking.  Food preparation evolved from a need to acquire calories and nutrients from the environment but it is also likely that humans evolved to rely on cooking to satisfy nutritional needs.  Many culinary practices involve chemical or biochemical reactions that have a variety of outcomes including changing the nutritive value of foodstuffs, preserving them, and enhancing their flavor.  This course explores the chemistry and biochemistry of cuisine.  Topics are explored through lectures, student presentations, readings from popular and scientific literature, laboratories, and field trips.  Laboratories explore some of the basic science behind food preparation and field trips feature local culinary products and practices.  Laboratory experiences include the chemistry of emulsification in the production of Hollandaise sauce; the molecular gastronomy of spherification; using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream; and others.  Emphasis is placed on fundamental topics in biochemistry, chemistry, and microbiology of cuisine. Ms. Rossi and Mr. Jemiolo

A Taste of Terroir: French Methodologies for Experiencing the Earth
The uniquely French concept of “terroir” explains how the physiographic properties of the origin of a food or wine can be detected in its taste. Yet, although the French have “tasted the earth” through foods for more than 500 years, the idea remains problematic: some believe terroir to be more myth than science. This seminar queries the intersection between the science and myth of terroir, mapping the latter’s evolution from Antiquity to the Renaissance and the French Revolution to the modern-day Parisian Restaurant. Along the way, we discover what terroir can tell us of French political theory, aesthetic appreciation, and an Epicurean philosophical movement subverted but never extinguished by Cartesian dualism. Other themes include: food and satire, the birth of connoisseurship, landscape theory, and the evolving dialect between nature and culture. Just as Proust used the flavors of the Madeleine to travel in time, we learn how the French use the “psychogeographics” of terroir to revisit forgotten places. Tastings accompany texts as we savor the fine line between science and figments of the French imagination. Mr. Parker.

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