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Writing About Food Redux

posted: 9.26.11 by archived

In the readings section for How to Write Anything, there are several essays that examine food: food as site of family or cultural tradition, food science and economics, and even reviews of food. I have also posted a series of assignment ideas relating to food in past BITS blogs:

Narrative: Personal Food History

Research Paper: Where Does Food Come From?

Review: Restaurant Critic

Proposal: New Food Ideas

But I was inspired to revisit this assignment after reading a powerful multimodal personal narrative in Harlot online magazine. The essay, by Sue Webb, mixes recipes with song lyrics, pictures, and personal reflections to tell the stories of her relationship with her father. Webb also does some really interesting things with the layout of the Web page and with internal and external hyperlinks. I think this is a great example of a multimodal personal narrative, but also a good example of how students might add diverse content to personal narratives they have already written, as a way to remix and revise.

I also love Lucky Peach, the new collaboration between McSweeney’s magazine and David Chang, the head chef at New York restaurant Momofuku. Lucky Peach is both an iPad app and a print journal focused on writing about food.  The first issue is dedicated to a topic many students might connect with: ramen.

The current issue of Lapham’s Quarterly also has a series of short essays on food. Finally, Poetry magazine recently featured a series of great personal narratives about food and writing, including an essay on beer by Nikki Giovanni.

Shifting away from personal narratives about food, I’ve also been paying attention to two more current (and maybe contentious) food issues that I plan to bring into the classroom. The first is the Guiding Stars program, in which all foods in a grocery store are ranked according to their nutritional content. This program has also been recently implemented in some college dining halls (including the University of New Hampshire).  I’m interested in hearing from students about this program, and how it might change their experiences of shopping and eating in public.

Finally, following the 2010 budget, there have been some proposed changes to the SNAP or food stamp program in the United States. Since 2007, the number of food stamp recipients in the United States has risen from around 11 million to around 21 million.  Job loss, lower wages, rising food prices—all of these factors impact an issue that seems to be growing in significance.  The stigma around government aid, projected reforms to the system, and even the question of what exactly is being bought with food stamps have all become topics for public debate.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Jay Dolmage
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