By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director
The year-end holiday season is fast approaching! Soon families and friends everywhere will be celebrating, with meals as the centerpiece of the festivities.
What better time to explore OCW’s fabulous collection of courses on food and cooking?
These courses have fascinating reading lists, ingenious assignments, and links to a full pantry of resources on the internet.
Let’s start with a couple of delicacies on the OCW site that are, well, fresh out of the oven:
- 21L.707 Reading Cookbooks: from the Form of Cury to the Smitten Kitchen taught by Ina Lipkowitz
In this course students visit the past through cookbooks to learn about what foodstuffs and technologies were available and when, and how religious and nutritional concerns dictated what was eaten and how it was cooked.
- 24.03 Good Food: Ethics and Politics of Food taught by Professor Sally Haslanger
How do individuals make decisions about what to eat? How should society manage food production and consumption? How can we reflect on food choices to help resolve conflicts between different values? By posing these questions, this course explores the values expressed in the choices of the food people eat, ranging from aesthetic and moral to cultural and political.
And here are some more dishes on the cultural aspects of what we eat and how we prepare it:
- 21A.265 Food and Culture taught by Professor Heather Paxson
What’s the connection between what we eat and who we are? How are personal identities and social groups formed via food production, preparation, and consumption? Readings are the staple of critical discussions around what makes “good” food good.
- 21W.730-4 Writing on Contemporary Issues: Food for Thought: Writing and Reading about Cultures of Food taught by Dr. Karen Boiko
This course explores many of the issues that surround food as both material fact and personal and cultural symbol. The class reads and discusses essays on such topics as family meals, eating as an “agricultural act,” slow food, and food’s ability to awaken us to “our own powers of enjoyment.” Writing assignments tap into personal memories and reflections on the assigned essays.
- 21H.S01 Food in American History taught by Anya Zilberstein
This course looks at food in modern American history as a story of industrialization and globalization. Topics include: 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.
And what MIT collection would be complete without some fully hands-on approaches to the subject?
- ES.287 Kitchen Chemistry taught by Dr. Patricia Christie
This seminar investigates cooking on a scientific basis. Each week students do an edible experiment and look at the science behind how it all works. Assignments range from “Guacamole, salsa, make your own hot sauce, and quesadillas” to “Scones and coffee” and “Jams and jellies” to “Pasta, meatballs, and crème brulée.”
- ES.S16 Advanced Kitchen Chemistry taught by Dr. Patricia Christie
This more sophisticated seminar features a weekly edible experiment that explores a specific food topic. Aside from these scrumptious assignments, the course site has links to resources such as Health benefits of chocolate, Flow diagram of cheese making, History of tofu, and Everything you did not want to ask about root beer.
- ES.S41 Speak Italian with Your Mouth Full taught by Dr. Paola Rebusco
If you want to learn a language, what better place to be than the kitchen? For each class in this course, a different dish is prepared, while students ingest bite-sized pieces of the Italian language and culture. By the end, students are able to cook some healthy and tasty recipes and understand and speak basic Italian. The course site includes instructional videos both on language and on cooking. Mangia!