Philosophy of Food

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General Resources

Forms

  • Worksheets for Nutrition Chapters

Final Paper Options

  • Your final paper should be a 7-9 page (typed double spaced) paper satisfying one of the following topics:
  • 1. "My Philosophy of Food" -- Put together your best answers to the most basic questions that define a philosophy of food. What are the fundamental features of a sound approach to food? How should we think about food, the Western Diet, and the satisfactions that food makes possible? What are the implications for your developed philosophy of food in terms of food choices and personal food culture (roughly what to eat and how to eat).
  • 2. Research Paper -- Food topics abound. Chose something that builds on your disciplinary expertise or not. You may choose an fact-based topic, but you may also want to consider topics that integrate ethical and public policy issues and the food system.
  • First Steps: In early April, I'll ask you to share some ideas about your topic interests in small group work.

Ideas for Food Journaling and Investigations in Florence and Beyond

Here are some ideas for optional work that helps you connect our Philosophy of Food course to Florence and your study abroad experience. Many of these involve an kind of amateur "ethnography" in which you carefully observe characteristics of the local (or European) food culture for distinctive practices and organization.

  • Restaurant and Food markets (including supermarket) culture
  • Visit several supermarkets and at least one open market (Mercato Centrale, but maybe also the Mercato St. Ambrogio, including at least one outside the centro. Observe the layout of the market, proportions of different kinds of products (industrial, artiginale, local, national brands), notice how food is presented and served to be sold. If you are quantitatively oriented you might focus on the sizes and prices of foods in comparison to the US. Qualitatively issues include the aesthetics of the market, quality of products, similarities and differences about the products offered, and how the market is organized. Who is shopping there and what are they buying? What can you tell about the "sourcing" of the foods? Try an Esselunga or Coop (via Gioberti or Novoli #22 bus from the station). Don't just visit small supermarkets in the center. You can also make comparative observations between Italian food culture and other places in Europe that you visit.
  • Since you visit restaurants to complete your diet here, try to develop a sense of the variety of Italian eating establishments. Get outside the Viale for this assignment as well. Compare menu organization, content, assumptions about diner preferences. How do Italians eat out? When do they go to dinner? How to they take apperitivi? You may need to research the different types of restaurants to understand your experience.
  • Street Food, Cafes and coffee culture, gelato, and specialty food stores
  • Florence has some distinctive street foods. Read about Tripa and Lampradotta and, if you are brave, go find some and try it.
  • Read about how Italians take their coffee, learn how to order coffee and pastries and then sample a variety of cafes from the fancy places in and just off Piazza Repubblica (Gigli, Giubbe Rosso, or the Giacosa, which is frequented more by Florentines. Go to some modest local cafes. What's different about them from the fancy ones?
  • Specialty stores with unique assortments of Italian foods can be found all over Florence. I'll start making a list, but again, you should sample some inside and outside the centro. For example, in my neighborhood there is a specialty shop for Mozzarella di Bufala. Outside the viale you can still find butcher shops and small shops that sell fruit and vegetables. Learn about vino sfuso.

These experiences can be processed for the course as journal assignments (3 or 6 for 5% or 10% of your grade) or short research papers. You should take a notebook or other device for writing down observations. Your journals should synthesis your observations rather than present raw data. Record both things you observe and think you understand as well as things that are puzzling to you. Research some the puzzles. Often this requires finding Italians who can be "informants" or you. Please pick a few highlights to share with the class.

Rough Outline of Optional Philosophy of Food Assignments and Topic Ideas

I will work on some new assignments for the Florence version of the course. Some of the assignments listed below may not be practical under conditions in Florence:

  • Diet Review and Improvement -- Review your own diet and consider the effects of specific changes you might make.
  • Choose 1, 2, or all three of these options:
  • 1. Tracking. Use an online diet tracking site to create a "baseline" analysis of your diet. Compare your diet to US Dietary Guidelines [1]. You can start this assignment between Feb 1 and March 1. Consider Myfitnesspal or any food/diet site that is connected to the large food and nutrition databases. Enter most of the foods you eat over a 7-10 day period. We will get into more detail on this, but try to look up nutritional norms for your age, health, and weight. Compare with your actual diet and the US Dietary Guidelines. Write up your observations in a 3-4 paper. You may want to focus on a general comparison of your diet to the guidelines, things you didn't notice or were surprised by about your diet, the proportion of whole food vs. industrial food products, the regularity or lack of regularity in the diet, etc. Due no later than March 1.
  • 2. Elimination Diet.Try small changes in your diet by eliminating some or all of the following: industrial processed food, sodas, eating between meals, and refined carbohydrates, especially refined sugar. Consider re-sourcing industrial meat to local organic. Try adding a non-meat protein dinner, such as a lentil or bean dish. Try the same as a restaurant. Use a journal to track your experience of these changes. Using the journal as a source, report on your experience in a 2-3 reflection paper. Start as soon as mid-February but finish no later than late March.
  • 3. 3 Way Diet analysis.In light of your study of nutrition this semester, make an analysis of your diet that considers three standards: nutrition, satisfaction, and practicality. Late April.
  • Food System Research, Food Journalism, & Food Activism -- Research a specific aspect of food production and distribution in your local food system. A research focus involves documenting the issue and giving your analysis of it, whereas an activism focus may involve trying to promote positive change. Here are a few examples:
  • Research a particular grocery store's sourcing choices.
  • Why does a local store sell peppers from Holland? Can they be sourced locally?
  • What organizations exist in Spokane to help promote local food production?
  • Investigate Sodexho's dietary standards and sourcing choices?
  • Take a favorite food product, food, or meal in your life and investigate or compare sourcing options. This could involved documenting the sources of a food product, making a dish from differently sourced ingredients, or other possibilities.
  • Visit a local supplier of organic foods or a local producer of industrial foods. Integrate relevant course issues into your analysis and reflection on your visit.
  • Visit Pure Eiyre Dairy in Othello, which touts its humane and organic methods. Sample their products, comparing them to industrial equivalents. http://www.pureeiredairy.com .
  • Try to visit Snyder's bread factory and then one of the artisan bakers in town: Common Crumb, Luna (Boosie's), Petite Chat.
  • Assess one or more restaurant menus in terms of nutrition, sourcing, or gastronomy.
  • Visit a local organic ranch or farm to gain insight into their values and challenges. What are the economics of such an enterprise.
  • Food security topic -- Learn about the food distribution systems that supply food banks, community food pantries, and free meals. Where does the food come from? Who uses or depends upon this food system? How well does it work to provide food security?
  • Food movie and book groups -- Get together with other students or work on your own to deepen your understanding of an additional book or movie source on food. Choose journals and/or class reporting as part of this assignment. Food movies
  • Some possible books:
  • Catching Fire Richard Wrangham -- This book by a leading medical anthropologist has been widely discussed and referenced in the last year. It brings together a fascinating literature on the effects of cooking on human evolution.
  • The Good Gut Justin and Erica Sonnenburg -- This microbiology couple at Stanford contributed this volume to the current discussion gut bacterial" or your microbiome.
  • Mindful Eating Jan Chozen Bays -- In this work, the author, a medical doctor, explores the ways that becoming a more mindful eater can improve your awareness of the importance of eating, your diet, control of appetite, and enjoyment of food.
  • In Meat We Trust Maureen Ogle -- Historians will like this story of the US cultural and dietary relationship with meat.
  • Philosophers at Table Raymond Boisvert and Lisa Heldke -- A recent work in philosophy on the nature of food and being human.
  • More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Rituah and Reality.Karen Davis, (New York: Lantern Books, 2001)
  • Caffeinated Murray Carpenter
  • Short Term Research - Many of the issues and topics we discuss are in flux due to emerging research and changes in food production and consumption. Here are some suggested topics for further research.
  • What are the alternatives to "culling" of male layers or treatment of male calves at dairy operations?
  • Can we breed animals "back" to conditions prior to the distorted breeding programs of industrial agriculture?
  • Food ethnography: Study a food or food system from your ethnic, regional, or class identity. The specific goal of the study will depend upon your interests. You might want to explore a food from your family life or make a critical study of the disruption of a food culture.
  • Research a fad diet from the last few years in light of research and reflection.
  • Are we getting better at farm raised fish?

Other Resources

Miscellaneous Food News and Food Culture

  • Electric Spoon [[2]]
  • Fasting -- Mark Mattson: Why fasting bolsters brain power. [3]
  • Weird food songs (good for food and gender reflection):
  • The Newbeats, "Bread and Butter" 1964 [4]
  • Nancy Walker, "I Can Cook, Too!" [5]