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Food for Thought (and Sequence)

posted: 10.23.09 by Barclay Barrios

I caught a wonderful little feature on the New York Times last week: Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules.”  It’s an interesting collection of reader-submitted rules about food and eating with a mix of culture, history, and humor presented in an intriguing design. It got me thinking about the Pollan piece in Emerging and about how I would put together a food sequence for one of my classes. The following is one sequence I might use:

  • Michael Pollan, “The Animals: Practicing Complexity”: I love this piece and students tend to like it, too.  It’s about a highly efficient organic farm that gets its efficiency through an ecological approach to farming, a true understanding of complex systems.  It would be a good starting point to discuss food and it also has elements of education and business, which could be teased out later. I’d use the NYT piece in the paper assignment, asking students to either deduce the food rules of Polyface Farms in Pollan’s essay or work more abstractly on function of rules in food ways.
  • Julia Alvarez, Selections from Once Upon a Quinceañera: This selection about the Hispanic coming of age ritual, the quince, is one of my current favorites in Emerging because it does so much.  It’s not about food at all, but about culture, and it would be interesting to use it in an assignment with Pollan.  I’m particularly interested in the concept of retroculturation in the piece and thinking about how that works with food ways.  I would make an assignment about the role of food in culture or the culture of farming.
  • Thomas Friedman, “The Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention”: On the surface this essay is about globalization in the flat world, but what I like about Friedman’s piece is that it also provides entry for discussions of economic and business systems.  And, like Pollan, it has a lot to do with complex and emergent systems. Bringing Friedman to this sequence foregrounds questions of economics and class that are buried just beneath the surface of Alvarez and Pollan.

One of the things I love about Emerging is that the readings are contemporary, so something’s always going on that inspires me or connects the class to the world, even if the connection is as simple as the food we eat.

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Categories: Emerging
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One Response to “Food for Thought (and Sequence)”

  1. Michael Goeller, Rutgers University Says:

    Hi Barclay —
    Thanks for pointing me to “Food Rules.” We used Pollan’s “The Food Movement, Rising” this summer with a group of high school kids.
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/jun/10/food-movement-rising
    (Sorry for the long link, but the site’s comment feature otherwise adds an extra slash that messes with URLs).
    It’s a review essay, but less review than essay.

    More to come. Just discovered your blog and thought I’d comment.
    Michael