All posts filed under: blog

Julia Child Inspiration, on Her 104th Birthday

Born in 1912, Julia Child would have celebrated her 104th birthday today. I never got to meet Julia; she died in 2004, just two days shy of her 92nd birthday. But I’ve felt her spirit. With Jacques Pépin, Julia co-founded the MLA in Gastronomy Program at Boston University, which began offering courses as early as 1991. It was one of the first graduate programs for the study of food, which Julia and Jacques adamantly believed in. In those early years, Julia defended the burgeoning course of study in the the New York Times, saying: There’s a lot more to the field than cooks piddling in the kitchen. It’s high time that it’s recognized as a serious discipline. Every matriculating BU Gastronomy student feels a connection to Julia’s legacy, her lineage. I started my degree in Gastronomy in 2011, but Julia was still there. For instance, the demonstration kitchen was built for Julia’s estimable height, making the counter and cooktop higher than standard, and a bit of a stretch for we shorter folk. Her sturdy metal stool resides in the room as well, a memento of her, and …

Why Budweiser’s “America” Rebrand Matters

Yesterday, Anheuser-Busch announced plans to rebrand Budweiser as “America” from late May through the November elections. Citing upcoming events like the 2016 Olympic Games, the Copa América soccer tournament (which will be held in the US for the first time), and the fall’s presidential election, Ricardo Marques, a vice president at Budweiser, declared it will “probably the most American summer of our generation.” It’s an event that Anheuser-Busch is keen to capitalize upon, though the invocation of “our generation” is interesting as “Millennials” (if we even exist as something more than a marketing category) are some of the least likely consumers to be purchasing packs of “America” this summer. Relatedly, Anheuser-Busch aims “to inspire drinkers to celebrate America and Budweiser’s shared values of freedom and authenticity.” This latter value seems particularly contentious given the ever-increasing market share of craft beers, which trade upon (perhaps equally constructed) notions of authenticity, identity, and lifestyle. Budweiser has directly targeted this tension, as their 2015 Super Bowl spot and subsequent ads throughout the year spread a distinctly anti-craft message, which can’t be separated from the brand’s subsequent claims to Americanness. Anti-craft messaging aside, this rebranding of a national …

Teaching Food Studies, Cookbooks & Writing

How do cookbooks speak? What stories do they tell—and whose? What do cookbooks reveal about power and how it operates? How do cookbooks communicate and construct gender? These are some of the questions my students and I have pondered lately in our course “Food and Gender in U.S. Popular Culture” at Brown University. For our first assignment, students analyzed how cookbooks prescribe and transgress conventional gender roles. A uniquely interdisciplinary field, food studies scholarship often employs various methods, but the close reading of cookbooks is one method that approaches universality. Perhaps that’s part of why I’ve written on them so often (like here, here, and here). I’m working with a thoughtful and engaged group of 20 mostly first- and second-year students. While most had read and used cookbooks for cooking, few had previously considered them as elements of popular culture, as valuable historical evidence, as prescriptive literature that shape notions of gender, or as sources in which the so-often-silenced voices of women and people of color can be heard. In an effort to fully scaffold and support our work with cookbooks, we first did some reading. …

Savoring Gotham in Edward Hopper Paintings + A Star Wars Rant

I’m thrilled to have written a few entries in the newly published Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover’s Companion to New York City, edited by Andrew F. Smith. As I flip through this tome—brimming with stories about Gotham’s notable foods and beverages, restaurants and bars, historical sites and events, cuisines, personalities, and brands from throughout the city’s five boroughs—one of my favorite entries so far is on Edward Hopper’s paintings of New York City food life. Depicting at times eerily quiet moments with minimal action between human figures, Hopper’s subject matter often drew from urban sites of quotidian America life, including food spaces—modest restaurants, automats, coffee shops, and chop suey joints—which Hopper frequented often with his wife. His paintings use these culinary locales, however, to express the common themes that mark his body of work: anonymity, anxiety, pensiveness, loneliness, and isolation. Hopper’s work critiques the promises of an abundant, fast-paced, cosmopolitan life in the big city, showing how the easy availability of food and drink at all times of the day and night might not lead to contentment. Instead, it fosters dissatisfaction and unease. More isn’t better. …

Eating for Muscle: What This Foodie Has Learned From Her Powerlifter Husband

I don’t usually identify myself as a foodie, but compared to my husband—who trains hard and subsists upon protein shakes and loads of lean meat—you might as well consider me one. The diets of strength athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and the like are a gustatory world away from what most people eat, what the USDA would recommend, or what any food enthusiast would sanction. In my most recent Zester post, I pondered the nearly twelve years I’ve spent cooking and eating alongside this man I love, as he’s worked toward his athletic goals, boiling it down to six food rules that muscle building folks follow: Protein is king. Food is fuel. Taste is secondary. Cheating is part of the plan. Bulk is good. Meal prep is not cooking. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this dearly dedicated, but distinctly anti-foodie subculture. And as a silly supplement, here are some shots of my husband’s weekly meal prep (and his lifting).

#phdlife: On Adopting a Dog & How Instagram Makes Academic Life Easier

We adopted an adorable pit bull rescue on Valentine’s Day and it was only a matter of time before she somehow made her way onto the blog. And believe it or not, bringing her into our family has helped my academic life in myriad ways, from minimizing study-induced back pain and loneliness to off-time full of unlimited cuddles and kisses. Adopting a pup also means I’ve discovered the world of pet-friendly Instagram (if you’re the sort that follows doggies, she’s @raven_puppie), which is one of the most supportive communities I have ever been part of and one that makes the copious use of emojis that I’ve been desiring from everyone in my normal life. (Seriously. Why aren’t you guys texting me multi-colored hearts and snoozy faces all the time?) These doggie mamas and papas are ever present to tell my girl that she’s cute and special and that she’s part of a caring community of dogs and owners committed to animal kindness for all breeds and types, especially hers, one so often maligned. And so, as I’ve engaged for the first time with an …

Post #100: Advice for Vegemite Virgins on Australia Day

My latest Zester piece encourages Americans to try Vegemite today, on Australia Day,  the country’s national holiday celebrating the day in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip and the First Fleet of eleven convict ships from Great Britain arrived at Sydney Cove. If you try it, you’ll be joining a venerated group of non-Aussies who have taken the challenge: Oprah tried it during her shows in Sydney, on the steps of the Opera House, no less, and claimed to like it. Brad Pitt also tried it, sticking his finger boldly into the jar and tasting it from his fingertip, with diplomatic consideration for its flavor.  President Barack Obama confessed in 2011 to then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that he found the spread “horrible,” disappointing Vegemite lovers—including me. Niall Horan of One Direction echoed this sentiment in 2012 when he tasted Vegemite toast live on Australian television only to spit it out and later share on Twitter, ”Can clearly say vegemite is horrible!” Ten American children tasted Vegemite for the first time in a popular video that circulated last year. Vegemite failed to …