Food studies is the critical examination of food and its contexts within science, art, history, society, and other fields. It is distinctive from other food-related areas of study such as nutrition, agriculture, gastronomy, and culinary arts in that it tends to look beyond the mere consumption, production, and aesthetic appreciation of food and tries to illuminate food as it relates to a vast number of academic fields. It is thus a field that involves and attracts philosophers, historians, scientists, literary scholars, sociologists, art historians, anthropologists, and others.
State of the field
This is an interdisciplinary and emerging field, and as such there is a substantial crossover between academic and popular work. Practitioners reference best-selling authors, such as the journalist Michael Pollan, as well as scholars, such as the historian Warren Belasco and the anthropologist Sidney Mintz. While this makes the discipline somewhat volatile, it also makes it interesting and engaging. The journalist Paul Levy has noted, for example, that "Food studies is a subject so much in its infancy that it would be foolish to try to define it or in any way circumscribe it, because the topic, discipline or method you rule out today might be tomorrow’s big thing."
Qualitative questions that are wrestled with include: What impact does food have on the environment? What are the ethics of eating? How does food contribute to systems of oppression? How are foods symbolic markers of identity? At the same time practitioners may ask seemingly basic questions that are nonetheless fundamental to human existence. Who chooses what we eat and why? How are foods traditionally prepared--and where is the boundary between authentic culinary heritage and invented traditions? How is food integrated into classrooms? Discussion of these questions has increased as a result of public concern about issues which have arisen as a result of the emergence of a vast array of novel food technologies throughout the last century, ranging from chemical fertilizers to GMOs. Pursuers of food studies approach these questions by first understanding the scientific, economic, and philosophical issues surrounding them.
One branch of this community has organized itself as The Association for the Study of Food and Society. This group hosts an annual conference (along with the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society); it publishes an interdisciplinary journal, Food, Culture, and Society; and it maintains an email listserv with over a thousand members for discussion of food-related topics. A few schools have programs in the field, including Julia Child and Jacques Pepin founded Boston University Gastronomy Masters program and New York University's program in Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. Syracuse University recently began offering a Bachelor of Science or minor in food studies, with a systems perspective grounded in political economy (http://falk.syr.edu/FoodStudies/). The Department of Anthropology at Indiana University has recently started a food studies concentration within their program, leading to a PhD in Anthropology, while The New School is developing an undergraduate program in Food Studies. Prof.Fabio Parasecoli is the Coordinator of Food Studies at the New School in New York City. Chatham University Master of Arts in Food Studies. The Masters of Arts in Food Studies emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.http://www.chatham.edu/academics/programs/graduate/mafs/ Prof. Alice Julier is the Coordinator of Food Studies at Chatham University. The University of Oregon in Eugene, USA, has recently launched a graduate specialization in food studies, and is aiming for a 2014 launch of an undergraduate degree.
In the United Kingdom, SOAS, University of London has offered a master’s programme in the Anthropology of Food since 2007. The course offers students the opportunity to study food on a variety of levels, ranging from the domestic to the international. The institution is also home to the SOAS Food Studies Centre, an interdisciplinary research centre focused on furthering the academic study of food.
Even study abroad programs have created new, interdisciplinary food studies programs, among them Palazzo Rucellai in Florence and The Umbra Institute in Perugia. Gustolab Institute is another institution in Italy which offers programs in food and media, advertising, science and nutrition, new technologies, and the history of food. To be mentioned also is the Pollenzo-based (near Bra, Cuneo, Italy) Università di Scienze Gastronomiche, the Institut Européen d'Histoire et des Cultures de l'Alimentation (Tours, France - linked to the Université François Rabelais de Tours), and FOST: Social and Cultural Food Studies of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium), providing education in bachelor, master or postrgraduate studies.
Numerous presses publish academic and popular books about the cultural significance of food, some of which are Columbia University Press, University Press of Mississippi, the University of Nebraska Press, University of California Press, the University of Illinois Press, the MIT Press, Berg, Earthscan, Routledge, Prospect, and Equinox Publishing.
- Levy, Paul. "The Joy of Soy." The Times, March 4, 2009, available online: http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls/article5843750.ece.
- Belasco, Warren James. Food: The Key Concepts. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2008.
- Belasco, Warren James. Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006.
- Counihan C. 2004. Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family and Gender Twentieth Century Florence. London:Routledge
- Curtin, Deane W., and Lisa M. Heldke, eds. Cooking, Eating, Thinking: Transformative Philosophies of Food. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.
- Heldke, Lisa M. Exotic Appetites: Ruminations of a Food Adventurer. New York: Routledge, 2003.
- Holtzman, Jon D. 2009 Uncertain Tastes. University of California Press.
- Koc, Mustafa, Jennifer Sumner and Anthony Winson, eds. Critical Perspectives in Food Studies. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2012.
- McWilliams, James. Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010.
- Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Viking, 1985.
- Pollan, Michael. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.
- Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
- Sutton, David. 2001. Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. Oxford: Berg.
- Wilk, Richard, ed. Fast Food/Slow Food: The Cultural Economy of the Global Food System. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press, 2006.