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Anthropology of Food

to Sweet Treats around the World

What FoodAnthro is Reading Now . . .
. Sunday, 19 May 2024, 12:18 (12:18 PM) CDT, day 140 of 2024 .
BBC Food
The Gardian News/ The GardianAnimals Farmed/

World Food and Water Clock
OWL logo, Online Writing Lab, Purdue University.    
Sicilian ice-cream in a bread bun. A good solution to a local problem: the Mediterranean heat quickly melts the ice-cream, which is absorbed by the bread.
A Fistful of Rice.
A Fistfull of Rice
Claire Kathleen Roufs eating first food at 5 months.
Claire Kathleen Roufs

Eating rat.
"Eating Rat At The New Year"
National Geographic
Desert People, boy eating "grub worm"
Desert People

Search the troufs Site
(all TR courses and web pages)
Anthroplogy of Food
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Texts and Other Class Material
 Eating Culture
 Omnivore's Dilemma
 The Language of Food
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Tables and Diagrams
Prologue: Setting the Anthropological Table
1. Omnivorousness: Classifying Food
2. Settled Ingredients: Domestic Food Production
3. Mobile Ingredients: Roots, Routes, and Realities of Industrialized Agriculture
4. Cooks and Kitchens
5. Recipes and Dishes
6. Eating-In: Commensality and Gastro-politics
7. Eating-Out and Gastronomy
8. Global Indigestion: Resetting the Agenda for Food Security
9. Local Digestion: Making the Global at Home
Epilogue: Leftovers to Takeaway

The course anchor text is
Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food, Second Edition

is currently available on-line for $42.99 new ppbk., $27.22 used ppbk., and Kindle $37.64.
(+ p/h, where applicable, at & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25).
(24 March 2024)

[It has been offered on-line for much higher prices, so be careful to check prices.]

Other on-line and brick and mortar stores should have comparable offers.

Gillian Crowther.
Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food, Second Edition.
Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018.
384 pages
ISBN-10: 1487593295
ISBN-13: 978-1487593292

From the Publisher

From ingredients and recipes to meals and menus across time and space, this highly engaging overview illustrates the important roles that anthropology and anthropologists play in understanding food and its key place in the study of culture.

The new edition, now in full colour, introduces discussions about nomadism, commercializing food, food security, and ethical consumption, including treatment of animals and the long-term environmental and health consequences of meat consumption. New feature boxes offer case studies and exercises to help highlight anthropological methods and approaches, and each chapter includes a further reading section. By considering the concept of cuisine and public discourse, Eating Culture brings order and insight to our changing relationship with food.

Humans have an appetite for food, and anthropology—as the study of human beings, their culture, and society—has an interest in the role of food. From ingredients and recipes to meals and menus across time and space, Eating Culture is a highly engaging overview that illustrates the important role that anthropology and anthropologists have played in understanding food. Organized around the sometimes elusive concept of cuisine and the public discourse—on gastronomy, nutrition, sustainability, and culinary skills—that surrounds it, this practical guide to anthropological method and theory brings order and insight to our changing relationship with food.


At last, a text for teaching the anthropology of food. Eating Culture is a wonderful introduction to cultural anthropology through the lens of food. From hunting and gathering to the global supply chain, this book offers an engaging entrée into thinking about food from a variety of cultural perspectives while introducing key concepts in cultural anthropology and food studies. (Rachel E. Black, Boston University)

In anthropology, we study food in order to better understand societies and cultures. Eating Culture provides an expansive, thorough, and very readable explanation of how we do that and of what we have so far understood. Using examples from all over the world, Crowther's text relies on both classic ethnographies and a nearly comprehensive survey of recent anthropological research on food. Eating Culture will be a welcome addition to undergraduate courses in food and culture. (David I. Beriss, University of New Orleans)

About the Author

Gillian Crowther is Professor of Anthropology at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC

  Gillian Crowther


Omnivore's Dilemma text.

Table of Contents
Introduction : our national eating disorder 1
1 The plant: corn's conquest 15
2 The farm 32
3 The elevator 57
4 The feedlot: making meat 65
5 The processing plant : making complex foods 85
6 The consumer: a republic of fat 100
7 The meal: fast food 109
8 All flesh is grass 123
9 Big organic 134
10 Grass: thirteen ways of looking at a pasture 185
11 The animals: practicing complexity 208
12 Slaughter: in a glass abattoir 226
13 The market: "greetings from the non-barcode people" 239
14 The meal: grass-fed 262
15 The forager 277
16 The omnivore's dilemma 287
17 The ethics of eating animals 304
18 Hunting: the meat 334
19 Gathering: the fungi 364
20 The perfect meal 391

Michael Pollan

 Michael Pollan

The award-winning best selling, and one of the most-read food books of modern times . . .

Named one of the Best Books of the 21st Century
-- The Guardian (21 September 2019)

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals,

an international run-away best seller, is currently available on-line for $10.81 new ppbk., $1.27 used ppbk., $9.99 Kindle.
(+ p/h, where applicable, at & eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25).
(24 March 2024)

Note: The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, Young Readers Edition (2009), also by Michael Pollen, is a different edition of the book.

Other on-line and brick and mortar stores should have comparable offers.

Michael Pollan.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

NY: Penguin, 2007.
464 pages
ISBN-10: 0143038583
ISBN-13: 978-0143038580

From Barnes & Noble

In the ancient days of hunter-gatherers, a wrong food choice -- in the form of a poison mushroom or toxic root -- could have quick and fatal consequences. Today, according to Botany of Desire author Michael Pollan, we face comparable dangers in the midst of plenitude. Pollan notes that Fast-Food America is experiencing what can only be described as a national eating disorder. With compelling precision, he describes how parallel food chains (industrialized food, alternative or "organic" food, and home-gathered food) reflect differences and similarities in our ecology of eating. A fascinating look behind the labels.

From the Publisher

A New York Times bestseller that has changed the way readers view the ecology of eating, this revolutionary book by award winner Michael Pollan asks the seemingly simple question: What should we have for dinner? Tracing from source to table each of the food chains that sustain us - whether industrial or organic, alternative or processed - he develops a portrait of the American way of eating. The result is a sweeping, surprising exploration of the hungers that have shaped our evolution, and of the profound implications our food choices have for the health of our species and the future of our planet.

The New York Times Book Review

Thoughtful, engrossing ... You're not likely to get a better explanation of exactly where your food comes from.

Publishers Weekly

Pollan (The Botany of Desire) examines what he calls "our national eating disorder" (the Atkins craze, the precipitous rise in obesity) in this remarkably clearheaded book. It's a fascinating journey up and down the food chain, one that might change the way you read the label on a frozen dinner, dig into a steak or decide whether to buy organic eggs. You'll certainly never look at a Chicken McNugget the same way again. Pollan approaches his mission not as an activist but as a naturalist: "The way we eat represents our most profound engagement with the natural world." All food, he points out, originates with plants, animals and fungi. "[E]ven the deathless Twinkie is constructed out of... well, precisely what I don't know offhand, but ultimately some sort of formerly living creature, i.e., a species. We haven't yet begun to synthesize our foods from petroleum, at least not directly." Pollan's narrative strategy is simple: he traces four meals back to their ur-species. He starts with a McDonald's lunch, which he and his family gobble up in their car. Surprise: the origin of this meal is a cornfield in Iowa. Corn feeds the steer that turns into the burgers, becomes the oil that cooks the fries and the syrup that sweetens the shakes and the sodas, and makes up 13 of the 38 ingredients (yikes) in the Chicken McNuggets. Indeed, one of the many eye-openers in the book is the prevalence of corn in the American diet; of the 45,000 items in a supermarket, more than a quarter contain corn. Pollan meditates on the freakishly protean nature of the corn plant and looks at how the food industry has exploited it, to the detriment of everyone from farmers to fat-and-getting-fatter Americans. Besides Stephen King, few other writers have made a corn field seem so sinister. Later, Pollan prepares a dinner with items from Whole Foods, investigating the flaws in the world of "big organic"; cooks a meal with ingredients from a small, utopian Virginia farm; and assembles a feast from things he's foraged and hunted. This may sound earnest, but Pollan isn't preachy: he's too thoughtful a writer, and too dogged a researcher, to let ideology take over. He's also funny and adventurous. He bounces around on an old International Harvester tractor, gets down on his belly to examine a pasture from a cow's-eye view, shoots a wild pig and otherwise throws himself into the making of his meals. I'm not convinced I'd want to go hunting with Pollan, but I'm sure I'd enjoy having dinner with him. Just as long as we could eat at a table, not in a Toyota. (Apr.) Pamela Kaufman is executive editor at Food & Wine magazine. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal

Pollan (journalism, Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World) defines the Omnivore's Dilemma as the confusing maze of choices facing Americans trying to eat healthfully in a society that he calls "notably unhealthy." He seeks answers to this dilemma by taking readers through the industrial, organic, and hunter-gatherer stages of the food chain. Focusing on corn as the keystone plant in the industrial stage, Pollan describes its role in feeding cattle and in food processing as well as its ultimate destination in the products we consume at fast-food restaurants. The organic, or pastoral, stage offers a pure and chemical-free eating environment for animals and humans. In the hunter-gatherer stage, omnivores hunt animals and gather the plant foods that comprise all or part of their diets. Pollan explains how a framework of environmental, biological, and cultural factors determines what and how we eat. Although a bit long and sometimes redundant, this folksy narrative provides a wealth of information about agriculture, the natural world, and human desires. Recommended for all omnivores. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Informatio

Kirkus Reviews

The dilemma-what to have for dinner when you are a creature with an open-ended appetite-leads Pollan (Journalism/Berkeley; The Botany of Desire, 2001, etc.) to a fascinating examination of the myriad connections along the principal food chains that lead from earth to dinner table. The author identifies three: the one controlled by agribusiness; the pastoral, organic industry that has sprung up as an alternative to it; and the very short food chain Pollan calls "neo-Paleolithic," in which he assumes the role of modern-day hunter-gatherer. He demonstrates the dependence of the agribusiness system on a single grain, corn, as it passes from farm to feedlot and processing plant. The meal that concludes this section is takeout from McDonald's and includes among other foods a serving of Chicken McNuggets. Of the 38 ingredients that make up McNuggets, 13, he notes, are derived from corn. This fact bolsters an earlier, startling statistic: Each of us is personally responsible for consuming a ton of corn each year. Pollan's exploration of the pastoral food chain takes two roads. Investigating "industrial organic," he assembles a meal composed entirely of ingredients from a Whole Foods supermarket. But he also visits a single, relatively small farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, where grass, not corn, is the basis of production, and cattle, chickens and pigs are raised through management of the natural ecosystem. Pollan joins in the farm work and is clearly impressed by what he learns, observes and eats here. In the final section, he learns how to shoot a wild pig and how to scavenge for forest mushrooms. The author's extraordinarily labor-intensive final meal provides a perfect contrast to thefast-food takeout of Part I. Pollan combines ecology, biology, history and anthropology with personal experience to present fascinating multiple perspectives. Revelations about how the way we eat affects the world we live in, presented with wit and elegance.


The Language of Food, Dan Jurafsky

1. How to Read a Menu
2. Entrée
3. From Sikbāj to Fish and Chips
4. Ketchup, Cocktails, and Pirates
5. A Toast to Toast
6. Who Are You Calling a Turkey?
7. Sex, Drugs, and Sushi Rolls
8. Potato Chips and the Nature of the Self
9. Salad, Salsa, and the Flour of Chivalry
10. Macaroon, Macaron, Macaroni
11. Sherbet, Fireworks, and Mint Juleps
12. Does This Name Make Me Sound Fat? Why Ice Cream and Crackers Have Different Names
13. Why the Chinese Don't Have Dessert
  Image Credits


The Language of Food Blog

Stanford course

Daniel Jurafsky
Kim Steele for The New York Times

 Meet Daniel Jurafsky

Dan Jurafsky is the recipient of a MacArthur "Genius Grant" and a professor of linguistics at Stanford University. He and his wife live in San Francisco.



The Vocabulary of Food

New York Times profile by Jennifer Schuessler

Meet Daniel Jurafsky

New York Times feature by Kate Murphy

Interesting Throughout

Marginal Revolution review by Tyler Cowen

Menu Speak

Atlantic magazine feature by Jen Doll

Does This Name Make Me Sound High-Fat?

Slate excerpt

Wikipedia Page

The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads The Menu
is currently available on-line new for $6.14 - $14,94 ppbk., $3.16 used ppbk., $9.99 Kindle, and $19.95 Audiobook. (+ p/h, where applicable, at & eligible for FREE Prime Shipping on orders over $25).
(24 March 2024)

Other on-line and brick and mortar stores should have comparable offers.

Dan Jurafsky.
The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads The Menu
NY: W. W. Norton, 2015.
272 pages
ISBN-10: 0393240835
ISBN-13: 978-0393240832

From the Publisher

Stanford University linguist and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky dives into the hidden history of food.

Why do we eat toast for breakfast, and then toast to good health at dinner? What does the turkey we eat on Thanksgiving have to do with the country on the eastern Mediterranean? Can you figure out how much your dinner will cost by counting the words on the menu?

In The Language of Food, Stanford University professor and MacArthur Fellow Dan Jurafsky peels away the mysteries from the foods we think we know. Thirteen chapters evoke the joy and discovery of reading a menu dotted with the sharp-eyed annotations of a linguist.

Jurafsky points out the subtle meanings hidden in filler words like "rich" and "crispy," zeroes in on the metaphors and storytelling tropes we rely on in restaurant reviews, and charts a microuniverse of marketing language on the back of a bag of potato chips.

The fascinating journey through The Language of Food uncovers a global atlas of culinary influences. With Jurafsky's insight, words like ketchup, macaron, and even salad become living fossils that contain the patterns of early global exploration that predate our modern fusion-filled world.

From ancient recipes preserved in Sumerian song lyrics to colonial shipping routes that first connected East and West, Jurafsky paints a vibrant portrait of how our foods developed. A surprising history of culinary exchange—a sharing of ideas and culture as much as ingredients and flavors—lies just beneath the surface of our daily snacks, soups, and suppers.

Engaging and informed, Jurafsky's unique study illuminates an extraordinary network of language, history, and food. The menu is yours to enjoy.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Ever since I heard the phrase 'fresh frozen' I have been wondering about food language. Now Dan Jurafsky has taken on the subject with scholarship, wit, and charm, making The Language of Food a very engaging book.” — Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod

“Writing with knowledge and wit, Dan Jurafsky shows that the language of food reflects our desires and aspirations, whether it’s on a fancy French menu or a bag of potato chips.” — Bee Wilson, author of Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat

The Language of Food is excellent, a fascinating read from beginning to end. From pastas to pastries, you can't resist Dan Jurafsky's insights into what we say about food.” — Tyler Cowen, professor of economics, George Mason University, and author of Average is Over

“Dan Jurafksy hits the sweet spot of intellectual rigor and spoon-common interest in The Language of Food. Whether quoting from a menu item, "Dirty Girl Romano beans," or decoding the food vortex of Portlandia, Dan makes your tongue drop. The chapters on sherbet, toast, and potato chip packaging are too delicious—you'll be scanning the supermarket as Dan's new protégé. Two thumbs up, multiple hearts, five stars, and beaucoup butterflies!” — Susie Bright

“Mix equal parts fascinating history, surprising etymology, and brilliant linguistic analysis, add a generous dollop of humor, and savor The Language of Food. You'll never think of ketchup, French fries, fish and chips, or toast in the same way” — Deborah Tannen, author of the #1 bestseller You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation

“Delightful. The distinguished linguist Dan Jurafsky brings a battery of skills to reveal the far-flung links of many of our dishes, to reveal how potato chip advertisements work, and to give an insider’s guide to reading menus. I couldn’t put this book down.” — Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History

“Why is the entrée served in the middle of the meal instead of when you 'enter' it? Why would anybody put a feather in their hat and call it macaroni? The Language of Food answers these questions and teaches so much more about a vast wing of our everyday vocabulary that we so seldom stop to think about.” — John McWhorter, Associate Professor of linguistics at Columbia University, contributing editor for The New Republic, and Time magazine columnist


The exams will be open-book essays constructed from a list of study questions that you help create,
so it would be a good idea for you to have your own copy of each text you plan to use in the exams.

For the exams you should normally just need to read the books carefully and be able to discuss them intelligently. That is, you should read these as if you had picked it/them up at an airport or neighborhood bookshop because you were interested in the subject and wanted to know more about it, like literally millions of people are doing in everyday life.


PLEASE NOTE: Some students are used to principally memorizing facts in classes. This class is not one where that is the focus. It is about investigating new topics, reading, listening, synthesizing ideas, thinking, exploring, and becoming familiar enough with the various subjects, peoples, and places to carry on an intelligent conversation about them in modern-day society.


In short, this class aims to give you practice in critical thinking, and even creativity.


Critical thinking, involving evaluation and synthesis, has long been regarded as essential for success in the modern-day world. In recent years, actually for two decades, creativity has also become central to success, and "process skills" vital to creativity. Process skills involve "strategies to reframe challenges and extrapolate and transform information, and to accept and deal with ambiguity" (Pappano, "Learning to Think Outside the Box," The New York Times EducationLife, 9 February 2014, 8). Laura Pappano, writer in residence at Wellesley Center for Women at Wellesley College, pointed out that ". . . 'creativity' was the factor most crucial for success found in an I.B.M. survey of 1,500 chief executives in 33 industries." (2014, 8).

Related to that, here are two interesting articles, the first from Minnesota Public Radio . . .

A Memo to My Students Re: College and the Real World
 -- Maryellen Weimer, Faculty Focus (17 August 2016)

How to choose college classes: 6 tips
  --Tracy Mumford, Minnesota Public Radio News (10 September 2015)

The following chapters and classical articles are available on-line

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