Perspectives on Food and Culture in the United States
Julia Ehrhardt, Honors College
This Perspectives course introduces students to the interdisciplinary study of food, a burgeoning academic field. We will begin by investigating how food shapes personal, group, and national identities, and then study how gender, ethnicity, and race contribute to these formulations. Next, we will turn to contemporary issues regarding food in the United States: the lives and working conditions of immigrant farm laborers who produce what we put on our tables, the politics underlying school lunch programs, and the ethics of eating meat. Finally, we will investigate the future of food and explore possible solutions for feeding the world in the future. Readings, in-class discussions, and paper assignments will facilitate our examination of these topics. The goal of this class is to understand how food shapes lived experience in the United States, and vice-versa—how our experiences with food have defined and presently signify about national life in the United States.
This course has been designated a Presidential Dream Course for the Spring of 2019 and will feature guest lecturers and special in-class events for participants. The guest lecturers will present on four topics central to the class: the history of soul food in America; Native American food traditions, the political history of the U.S. school lunch program, and genetically modified foods. Each guest will also offer a program open to the public.
This class fulfills the Honors Perspectives requirement and carries lower division General Education credit.
Public Lecture Series
Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food
Distinguished Professor, Department of Plant Pathology/Genome Center
University of California at Davis
Pamela C. Ronald earned her Ph.D. in molecular and physiological plant biology from the University of California at Berkeley after completing an M.A. in biology at Stanford University and an M.S. in plant physiology from Uppsala University. Today, she is Distinguished Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and the Genome Center at the University of California-Davis and the Director of Grass Genetics at the Joint Bioenergy Institute in Emeryville, California. She is also Faculty Director of the UC-Davis Institute for Food and Agricultural Literacy. An elected Fellow of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, Ronald has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her research group has won the USDA National Research Initiative Discovery Award as well as many honors from organizations that recognize distinguished research in technology used for humanitarian purposes. Ronald. Her research focuses on the genetics of rice plants: specifically, the genes in rice that enable strains to resist disease and to tolerate stress. With research collaborators, she has developed genetically engineered rice plants that can survive in areas prone to flooding, especially in regions in Africa and Asia. Along with R.W. Adamchak, an organic farmer who manages the UC-Davis student-run farm, Ronald is the author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food (Oxford University Press, 2010). Her 2015 TED Talk, “The Case for Engineering Our Food,” has been viewed over 1 million times.
The President's Kitchen Cabinet: The African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families
Adrian Miller, J.D.
Adrian Miller is a graduate of Stanford University and Georgetown University Law School. After practicing law in Denver for several years, Adrian became a special assistant to President William Jefferson Clinton and the Deputy Director of the President’s Initiative for One America. After his White House stint, Miller returned to Colorado and served as the General Counsel and Director of Outreach at the Bell Policy Center. In 2007, Miller became the Deputy Legislative Director for Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. By the end of Gov. Ritter’s first term, Miller was a Senior Policy Analyst for Gov. Ritter where he handled homeland security, military and veterans’ issues. Miller was also Governor Ritter’s point person on the Colorado Campaign to End Childhood Hunger which significantly increased participation in the summer food and school breakfast programs. Miller’s book, Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time was published by the University of North Carolina Press in August 2013. Soul Food won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award for Reference and Scholarship. His second book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas was published on President’s Day, February 20, 2017. Miller recently received the “2018 Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame” Award for his work on African American foodways. He is currently working on Black Smoke, a history of African American barbecue culture.
Eating to Learn and Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the U.S.
Ph.D./UW ACS Surgical Education Research Fellow
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
A faculty member in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Andrew Ruis is a Fellow in the Department of Surgery and Researcher in the Wisconsin Center for Education in Research. Ruiz earned two undergraduate degrees at the University of California-Davis: a B.A. in Comparative Literature and an B.S. in Microbiology. He then earned his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology. A scholar who researches the history of childhood malnutrition, Ruis is the author of Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the United States (Rutgers University Press, 2017). Reviewers have praised the book for its analysis of the different and often competing parties—social reformers, military leaders, food industry magnates, and the federal government—that established early school lunch programs in this country. Ruis’ research provides the vital historical contexts of longstanding social and political battles that prevent hungry students from obtaining nutritious food at school.
Native American Food Now
Lois Allen Frank, Ph.D.
Red Mesa Cuisine
Lois Ellen Frank is a historian and culinary educator who hails from the New York metropolitan area but now makes her home in Santa Fe. Of Kiowa and Sephardic Jewish ancestry, Frank received her M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of New Mexico. Her thesis and dissertation both focused on aspects of Native American cuisines, including extensive work on the enduring spiritual significance of corn in Native American cultures. While working as a professional chef, Frank spent 25 years researching the foodways of Native tribes from the Southwestern United States. She published her research in the book Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations: Traditional and Contemporary Native American Recipes (Ten Speed Press, 2002), which won the James Beard Foundation Americana Award in 2003. Currently, Frank is the chef and owner of Red Mesa Cuisine, a catering company whose mission is to bring traditional Native American foods into contemporary Southwestern cooking. An adjunct professor at the Institute of American Arts, Frank teaches courses on Native American food traditions. She also teaches cooking classes at the venerated Santa Fe School of Cooking using ingredients from Native American purveyors seeking to reinvigorate lost foods. She is a sought-after lecturer at universities, museums, and food studies seminars, and now works on projects to combat diabetes in Native American communities by introducing indigenous diets to those with the disease. She will share her experiences as a chef, gardener, and scholar working to reintroduce Native American foodways to both tribes and non-Native communities.