In the Kitchen

In a general sense, university courses on food usually allow students the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge of food history, practices, and culture, but for Patrizia La Trecchia, an associate professor in the Department of World Languages at the University of South Florida, the basics are just the beginning.

“I have been teaching such courses for almost a decade, while also allowing students to apply the theoretical knowledge of gastronomy they gained to their kitchen practice,” she says. “In my current semester course, Food Culture in the Mediterranean, students expand their critical understanding of Mediterranean culture through its foodways, or where food in culture, traditions, and history intersect. They use food knowledge to broaden their critical thinking and global perspectives. They analyze modern-day issues, controversies, and strategies in the food world. They write about their relationship with food and they apply critical thinking to food and foodways through a variety of selected readings, current articles, class discussions, food journals, recipes, field trips to ethnic markets and stores, and personal and practical experiences.”

La Trecchia Kitchen

Patrizia La Trecchia

La Trecchia says the students also go on to produce an ePortfolio for assessment that is comprised of their writing samples (a food memoir), photography (at least 10 well thought and commented food Instagram posts, called Foodstagram), a short podcast series, and a YouTube video in which they explain why they selected an original recipe as they prepare it in their own kitchen.

In addition to studying food culture and history, she says the students study classic cookbooks of different Mediterranean cuisines and examine film techniques of Italian and Middle Eastern celebrity chefs’ cooking shows and, as they prepare recipes in their own kitchens, they produce their own cooking show.

“This practical assignment allows them to compare and contrast their own foodways and cultural values with the Mediterranean ones,” continues La Trecchia. She notes that at the end of the course, the students feel empowered with the conceptual tools necessary for analyzing their attitudes towards food and the complex paradoxes affecting the global food system, how our food choices and food production and consumption are changing worldwide and their relevance for the future.

Published on: 12/11/2019