Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 3 hours / session

Course Overview

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.


MIT students were required to obtain permission of the instructor.


Class Participation 20%
Sugar Six Ways paper 20%
Research Paper Proposal and Bibliography 10%
Final Paper 50%


1 Introduction  
2 Modern Ingredients  
3 Factories in the Fields  
4 Food Factories Sugar Six Ways paper due
5 American Agriculture
Visit from Prof. Deborah Fitzgerald
6 What (Not) to Eat  
7 Abundance Research Paper Proposal and Bibliography due 3 days after this session
8 Individual Meetings to Discuss Paper Proposal  
9 Hunger  
10 Supermarkets  
11 American Cuisine  
12 Nature  
13 Novelty and Tradition
Visit from Prof. H. Paxson
14 Potluck Oral Presentations of Final Papers