This semester I am teaching a First Year Seminar titled Good Food: Eating and Culture. For the first half of the semester we have been learning about different aspects of the American food system and its history. Beginning with Michael Pollan’s classic Omnivore’s Dilemma and James E. McWilliams Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, this past week we have been wading into Susan Friedberg’s excellent social history of food and technology, Fresh: A Perishable History.
Along the way we have been discussing the industrial food system, processed food, “big” organic, and local food. We have touched on salt, sugar and fat. We have begun to think about monocultures, meat consumption, corn syrup, food miles and our daily meals. Recently we have considered our trust in the food system, labor, technology and the social construction of “freshness.” Grassfed. Cornfed. Organic. Freerange. Frozen. Canned. Farm Fresh. Factory Fresh.
For a class about food, however, we really were missing a key component—actually eating food. So, a few weeks ago I asked the class what they thought of having an extra class activity where we actually eat, savor, taste and discuss foods related to our class—a kind of academic tasting meal. This past week we took some class time to brainstorm foods that would be related to things we have been reading about and discussing. We came up with a pretty interesting tentative list of things and issues that would allow for a range of tastes and perspectives on foods.
Our tasting meal is scheduled for late tomorrow afternoon, so today was the best time to go and purchase all of the necessary ingredients—with trips to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market for local produce, Kowalski’s Market and Rainbow Foods for many of the other things on the list. Some friends on Facebook helped out with acquiring the feed corn.
A few of the things the class brainstormed were not available or were too difficult to get, so we had to edit the menu a bit. It involved some running around to bring everything together, but I think it will be worth it. Here is the final list:
Vegetables Green Beans, Corn, Carrots, Green Peppers, Tomatoes Frozen, Canned, Organic, Store-bought (And, after reading Pollan they really wanted to try eating #2 feed corn, so I got some of that too.) Fruits Apples, Bananas Organic, Store-bought Meats Beef, Chicken Grass-fed, Corn-fed, Free Range, Organic Eggs Organic farm-raised, Store-bought Cheese Raw, Pasturized, Processed, Canned Sugars White Sugar, Corn Syrup, Sugar Substitute Maple Syrup, (Artifical) Maple Syrup Drinks Lemonade Fresh squeezed, From Concentrate, Powered Mix Desssert Apple Pie, Whipped Cream Store-bought (frozen), Processed, Homemade
This is simply a tasting meal and will not fill everyone up, so we agreed to supplement these foods with some pizza. Since eating together is important and we want to maximize the communal nature of our eating experience, the pizzas we order will all be vegetarian—chosen from the excellent array of options made by Pizza Luce.
I’m very much looking forward to tomorrow afternoon’s meal and plan to summarize it in Part Two. For the time being, enjoy some photos from today’s shopping trips!