Food in American History

A plate of yellow sponge cakes filled with cream in the center.

This popular snack cake, which is rumored to never expire, has been a fixture in pop culture and grocery stores since 1930. This course will examine the globalization of food as well as consumption patterns and the history of sugar, among other topics. (Image courtesy of Christian Cable on flickr. License CC BY.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Fall 2014



Cite This Course

Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This course will explore food in modern American history as a story of industrialization and globalization. Lectures, readings, and discussions will emphasize the historical dimensions of—and debates about—slave plantations and factory farm labor; industrial processing and technologies of food preservation; the political economy and ecology of global commodity chains; the vagaries of nutritional science; food restrictions and reform movements; food surpluses and famines; cooking traditions and innovations; the emergence of restaurants, supermarkets, fast food, and slow food. The core concern of the course will be to understand the increasingly pervasive influence of the American model of food production and consumption patterns.

Related Content

Anya Zilberstein. 21H.S01 Food in American History. Fall 2014. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

For more information about using these materials and the Creative Commons license, see our Terms of Use.