All posts tagged: popular culture

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. 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. While there are many incredible texts I could have assigned, we read from: Jessamyn Neuhaus. …

To Eat, Or Not To Eat, Kangaroo

Inspired by my recent travels to Australia, my most recent Zester Daily piece explores kangaroo meat and its consumption in Australia and abroad. Low fat, high protein, eco-friendly, affordable, and served at top Aussie restaurants, kangaroo meat consumption appears to be on the rise, but not in Australia. For the most part, Australians are wary to eat kangaroo, as the animal has figured prominently in the nation’s history, identity, and popular culture. For more, please take a sec to read the article—and here’s an impromptu gallery of kangaroo imagery as thanks.

Food History Roundup: 6 Posts on 1950s Convenience Cuisine

Titled, “Beef Fizz and Other Strange Recipes from the ’50s-’60s,” my most recent Zester Daily article was published last week, a short piece dedicated to my fascination with mid-century cuisine. Over the summer, I have indulged my mid-century penchant by picking up dozens of vintage cookbooks, including six more just last night! These cookbooks are mostly from the 1950s and 1960s, but some earlier in the twentieth century (I can’t wait to write about The Sunny Side of Life Book, published by the Kellogg Company in 1934) and some later (like Betty Crocker’s Family Dinners In a Hurry, whose fourteenth printing ran in 1980). It’s a borderline reckless hobby, adding more books to an already large collection of literature, public health texts, and food studies books, but I’m sure it’ll provide inspiration for many a blog post. I’ve already written a bit on convenience food, packaged-food cuisine, my love of Laura Shapiro’s Something from the Oven, and what food and cooking meant mid-century. Here’s a quick roundup in roughly chronologically historical order: 1. Wartime, Memorial Day … & Kraft American Cheese? Focusing on …

Food Journals in Popular Culture: Confessing Diet Sins or Legit Rehabilitation?

At times, diet literature offers the same recommendations that dietitians and eating disorder specialists proffer, but accompanied by an underlying message of guilt—in this case of biblical proportion. In the article, “Diet Confessions” from the June 2006 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Jim Karas (Chicago-based trainer to the stars and the common man alike) discusses keeping a food journal as a weight loss strategy. The article is accompanied by a disturbing image of a thin young woman kneeling as if at worship itself with her hands pressed together in fervent prayer. A scale lurks forebodingly in the background, a menacing crucifix. Upon her face shines the light of whichever god one confesses dieting sins. Karas discusses food journals utilizing religious descriptive language, including:  coming clean  every bite you take, every vow you break  confessing what you’ve eaten The article portrays an extra cookie as a sin that must be confessed to the food journal. Susan Estrich also refers to food journals in her diet book, Making the Case for Yourself: A DIET Book for SMART Women (1997), saying, …

Transcending the Screen: Trophy Kitchens in Two Nancy Meyers’ Films

Nancy Meyers’ older bird chick flicks, Something’s Gotta Give (2003) and It’s Complicated (2009), provide both escape and hope to middle-aged female audiences, whose views on love, sex, and relationships are both informed and complicated by life experience — including marriage, motherhood, and divorce — and the stereotypes that accompany being middle-aged. Something’s Gotta Give is the story of fifty-three-year-old Erica (Diane Keaton), the successful, divorced playwright who in the setting of her luxurious Hampton beach house falls in love with both her daughter’s sixty-three year old boyfriend, Harry (Jack Nicholson) and a handsome thirty-something doctor, Julian, (Keanu Reeves). It’s Complicated also tells the story of an accomplished, divorced woman in her fifties, Jane (Meryl Streep), but in this version of the story, she is caught not between a man her own age and a younger man, but between her ex-husband, Jake (Alec Baldwin), and her new boyfriend, Adam (Steve Martin), the architect she has hired to build her dream home. Food and cooking serve as symbols and narrative devices in these two films, representing and communicating the multidimensional …

Chain Restaurant “Diet” Menus: Serving Up Guilt with a Side of Sin

Guilt is frequently linked to food in a dysfunctional way and is founded in a belief system that gives food and eating a moral value. Notably, Paul Rozin et al.’s (1999) landmark food psychology study found that compared to Japanese and European subjects, Americans restricted their diets the most, feeling the most guilt and dissatisfaction. The moral construct of food consumption is an important part of American food culture and is what Paul Campos refers to as “orthodox diet theology” (2004: 75). Using this theology, some foods are deemed good, while others are bad, and thus guilt-inducing. The themes of guilt and morality are often used to sell entrees at chain restaurants, usually dishes that are considered “healthy” or low-calorie options. Patrons are encouraged to order from “diet” menus, which claim to offer dishes that make eating out a guilt-free experience. Among 200 menu options (some of which contain more than 1,000 calories), The Cheesecake Factory launched the “SkinnyLicious® Menu” in 2011, which Bruce Horowitz in USA Today argues was a result of “pressure from calorie counters, advocacy groups and party poopers” (Horovitz). At Applebee’s (a …

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: 5 Images That Summarize My Food Studies Interests

I’m a food studies student, who obviously loved Jay-Z’s Black Album when I was in college, which feels like a long time ago. As I continue my interdisciplinary studies of food, nutrition, and public health, this blog is a place for some of my finished work, as well as lots of projects that are in process or ideas that are just rumbling around in my mind. Please feel free to comment and engage! It’s okay to be critical, but please be kind. Most of my interests are encapsulated in the cover header I created for this blog… Image 1: MyPlate — Nutrition Education & Food Politics  Introduced in 2011, MyPlate is the USDA’s current nutrition education tool, replacing the 2005 tool, MyPyramid, a bit of a disaster, which built upon the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid, which anyone from my generation learned in elementary school. The plate image has been used previously, such as in the UK’s eatwell plate and the Plate Method used and evaluated in the US. While I feel conflicted about whether we should be telling, instructing, or cajoling people into eating a certain …