Ideas for food journaling in Florence

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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.