ANTH 324 Syllabus – Food and Culture

Consuming Identities: The World at the Table

Food is a topic that every student, no matter his/her background, has personal experience; it is so common that its cultural connotations tend to be overlooked. Among North Americans of Asian descent, this is often the one area that there is a strong identity, whether positive or negative, of one’s ancestry. Asian foods, in particular, Chinese, have been popular since the turn of the 20th century and Thai and Indian cuisines have become increasingly so. These cuisines are not just about sustenance but about cultural symbols that bind together people in ritual and to a community. How one participates in the act of eating, and when certain foods are to be prepared are learned and understood at the table. In the North American context, Thanksgiving has an established food tradition; there are similar established food-related traditions among other populations, such as, the lunar new year, or Easter.

The course will initially explore the general topic of food and culture to present a background in which to discuss the specifics of identity and meaning. The role of food will be examined in several different communities. Film clips will be used as an entrée to discussing specific topics, such as, festivals/rituals, food as family/community. The identification of food’s importance in culture is increasingly recognized by the numerous food publications available and not just cookbooks.

Instruction is through online delivery (zoom and VIULearn). BE PREPARED TO PARTICIPATE VIRTUALLY! For this reason, students are expected to keep up with their readings; read in advance. The grade will be based on participation (20%), food journal “diary” (5%), opinion piece (5%), food memory story (10%), cookbook analysis (15%), and research project (25%). There will be one exam (20%). Written assignments will be submitted online through VIULearn. There is no final exam.

Not attending an exam or submitting an assignment will result in an “F”; your final grade is based on completing ALL course work.

Learning Objectives:

  • Interpret the reasoning behind certain food practices.
  • Analyze how you and society impart meaning to what is eaten (food can be politicized!)
  • Evaluate specific food traditions through social and environmental factors that contribute to their creation and continuation
  • Predict trends in food culture, whether locally or beyond
  • Analyze the impact of media and policy on our eating habits, past and present
  • Interpret aspects of food culture through core anthropological concepts

Required texts:
As there is no one absolute book written on this topic, readings will be from several sources. A list of book titles and web resources is available (online) to assist students in further exploring certain food topics.

Belasco, Warren. 2008. Food: The Key Concepts. New York, NY: Berg.

Child, Julia (with Alex Prud’homme).  2006.   My Life in France. New York, NY: Anchor Books.

Iacovetta, Franca, Marlene Epp and Valerie Joyce Korinek, eds.  2012.   Edible Histories, Cultural Politics: Towards a Canadian Food History. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto Press. [eBook1, eBook2]

Morais, Richard C.  2010.  The Hundred-Foot Journey.  New York, NY: Scribner.  [READ FOR EXAM]

Please read assigned chapters prior to the week’s class to facilitate discussion.

Lectures and Readings
Sep 8 Introduction: Ask Me Anything
Zoom discussion: AMA
Sep 17 Food and Memory
Zoom discussion: Tampopo and favourite foods
READ: Belasco, Ch.1; Iacovetta et al, Introduction
Sep 24 Eating Stories
Zoom discussion: food memories
READ: Belasco, Ch.2; Iacovetta et al, Pt.3
DUE: Food memory story
Oct 1 Food Identities
Zoom discussion: drama of food
READ: Belasco, Ch.3; Iacovetta et al, Pt.2
Oct 8 Food and You
Zoom discussion: food diary
READ: Belasco, Ch.4 [begin reading Child for Oct 22]
DUE: Food diary
Oct 15 Food for the Body
Zoom discussion: health and nutrition
READ: Belasco, Ch.5; Iacovetta et al, Pt.8
Oct 22 How to Cook!
Zoom discussion: cookbooks
READ: Child; Iacovetta et al, Pt.4
DUE: Cookbook Analysis
Oct 29 Traditions: Food as Medicine
Zoom discussion: cultural practices specific to health
Allport (2002, 28-37); Anderson (2014, 119-136)
Nov 5 Traditions: Food & Religion
Zoom discussion: religious food practices
READ: Heine (2018, 186-203); Yoskowitz (2012, 72-76)
DUE: Nov 6, Preliminary Bibliography and Abstract of Final Project
Study Days – No Classes, Nov 9- 13
READ: Morais [in preparation for Nov 26 exam]
Nov 19 Authenticity & Future Food
Zoom discussion: food trends and more
READ: Belasco, Ch.6; Kuo (2018, 101-127); Lim (2005)
Nov 26 EXAM (submit through VIULearn)
Dec 3 Student Presentations
Zoom discussion
Dec 10 Student Presentations
Zoom discussion


  • Use of technology:  Recording is only permitted by request as authorized by Disability Services. Please contact Disability Services if you are in need of academic support and accommodation.
  • If there are exceptional and/or extenuating circumstances, such as illness or a death in the family, that prevents you from meeting an assignment deadline or being present for an exam, please notify me immediately so that other arrangements can be made. (See VIU Calendar, General Regulations.)
  • Should you need counselling at any time during the semester, contact Student Affairs. Drop-in counselling is available.  If immediate support is needed after hours, call the Crisis & Information Line: 1-888-494-3888.  As well, you can contact Cowichan Valley Mental Health and Substance Use Services Intake, 3088 Gibbins Road, Duncan: 250.709.3040.  In Nanaimo, there is a Walk-in Counselling Clinic, Brooks Landing (203-2000 Island Highway North), Nanaimo: 250-739-5710.  For general health and wellness queries, go to bc211 or dial 211; it’s free and confidential.
  • If you appear to be experiencing difficulties, you might be identified to VIU Student Affairs through the Early Alert System (EAS).  EAS is a campus-wide program to connect students with resources that may help their success.
  • Withdrawing from any VIU course MUST be done formally, that is, by applying at the Registration Centre.
  • All in-coming mail is spam-filtered. Identify the course name in the “Subject” box when emailing your instructor. Also, add your instructor to your “accepted” email address file and ensure that VIU has your correct email address.

Final grade assignment:
Grades will be assigned according to the following scale:

90-100 A+ 64-67 C+
85-89 A 60-63 C
80-84 A- 55-59 C-
76-79 B+ 50-54 D
72-75 B <49 F
68-71 B-

Just as appetite comes by eating so work brings inspiration.
–Igor Stravinsky, composer (1882-1971)

Created 2002-08-22; last updated 2020-09-23