Readings

Weeks 1 to 7 — Leftovers: A History

Readings

Henry David Thoreau, from Walden; Upton Sinclair, The Jungle; Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America

Class content

For the first portion of the class, we will investigate the history of food writing. Thoreau will introduce us to the ecological mindset as he ponders growing beans in the woods near Walden Pond. Sinclair takes us to the end of the nineteenth century, when industrialization and immigration had changed the landscape of America — both literally and socially. Berry introduces us to an environmentalist's history of agriculture and sets the scene for understanding how far our food culture has changed since his radical 1970s text was published.

Weeks 8 to 12 — Food as Bestseller: The Contemporary Uptake

Readings

Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma; Eric Schlosser, Fast Food Nation; Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Class content

This portion of the syllabus covers three of the iconic works of contemporary nonfiction food writing. Pollan's book examines large- and small-scale organic farming since the FDA regulated the usage of the term. Schlosser continues where Sinclair left off, examining the intersection of labor, industrial production, and fast food culture in our society. Kingsolver suggests the practicality of uniting modern life with sustainable food practices by sharing her own family's yearlong experience of eating a local food diet.

The primary questions that we'll be dealing with in class will concern food ethics; our relationship to industrial production and the implications it has for labor, the environment, health, and family; and the practicality and viability of being more local-food conscious, given certain socioeconomic constraints. At this time we will also work on our food-staple research projects and spend a couple of weekend days on local farms.

Weeks 13 to 15 — Contorno: Food as Politics, Ethics, and Community

Readings

Mark Winne, Closing the Food Gap; Peter Singer, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter

Class content

We'll spend the last weeks of the course contemplating the future of sustainable food. Winne's text describes his experience as an organizer of food relief programs for America's poor, helping raise questions about class and access to good, local, sustainable food. Singer's text will help us ground a final consideration of international connections with a critique of fair trade practices. Our last class will take place in a kitchen, where we will cook and eat a locally sourced dinner.