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Food Rules

posted: 6.6.11 by archived

Today I am going to blog about food. Maybe because I’m hungry? I’ve blogged about food before. Specifically, I suggested a few assignment ideas based around food: a “personal food history,” a “where does your food come from?” research paper, restaurant reviews, and “new food ideas” based on McSweeney’s magazine’s popular series of reviews.

Also, in the readings section for the textbook How To Write Anything, there are several essays that examine food: food as a site of family or cultural tradition, food science and economics, and even reviews of food. Personally, I like reading and talking about food, and I find students do too.

Today, I want to suggest another assignment or in-class activity that centers around food.  Michael Pollan is the bestselling author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and several other books investigating the environmental, ethical, and economic impact of food. Most recently, he published Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, containing a list of sixty-four “food rules.” Here are five of those rules, summarized:

  1. Don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.
  2. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.
  3. Don’t eat anything that won’t eventually rot.
  4. It is not just what you eat but how you eat. Always leave the table a little hungry.
  5. Families should eat together, around a table and not a TV, at regular meal times.

Pollan also asked New York Times Magazine readers to send in their own food rules, and he chose twenty to be featured in the food issue of the publication in 2009. Many of these rules have obviously been passed down within cultures or families.

So, the assignment or in-class activity would be to ask students for their own personal, familial, or cultural food rules. I also like that the twenty rules from the New York Times Magazine have been presented in visually interesting ways: the font, layout, and image choices are intentional and connected to their message. So this could be an added wrinkle to the activity or assignment: design your food rules to be persuasive and visually interesting.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage
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2 Responses to “Food Rules”

  1. Sessional Girl Says:

    Jay – thanks for this. I am teaching composition summer session two and am always looking for an idea that sparks in me some new excitement. I have been teaching composition as a sessional at various institutions since 2000, and I have finally turned to the internet to provide me with a teaching community. I will use this post. I really value all the time the writers are putting into this site. I have not left a comment before, but I have used links here, jotted down ideas/tidbits, and been inspired many times. Facing up to 140 students in a composition class – I really need a community to keep me well stocked in tricks of the trade!

  2. Jay Dolmage, U.Waterloo Says:

    I agree S.G. I taught a comp. class of 150 last fall. Daunting indeed. I am glad that some of this is useful!
    Please let me know how it goes…