The GW University Seminar on Food brings together scholars, policy makers, activists, and practitioners in the community of food. Our spring programming is devoted to the theme of appetite. You may have a taste for green beans that are fresh rather than canned, but why? Your hunger for couscous may be a response to your desire to be home as much as to your body’s nutritional requirements. Even a baby’s preference for food you’ve made versus food you’ve bought reflects not just a biological imperative but a social thing — an appetite that emerges in particular social contexts. Join our distinguished guests over the next two months as we explore some of the sociological, geographic, imperial, and historical roots of this powerful force in our lives.
Convener: Ivy Ken
An Appetite for Baby Food
Amy Bentley, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, will present “Baby Food and the Industrialization of Taste in the United States” at 4PM on March 26. Prof. Bentley’s work demonstrates that even babies’ appetites are invented, and decisions about what to feed children reflect larger societal events and anxieties. Bentley served as the President of the Association for the Study of Food and Society from 2000 to 2002 and is currently an editorial board member for Food and Foodways and Food, Culture and Society.
An Appetite for Green Beans
On April 19 at 4PM, Susanne Freidberg will present “The Unnatural History of Freshness.” Freidberg, Professor of Geography at Dartmouth, is the author of Fresh: A Perishable History (Belknap 2009). Although our appetite for “fresh” food seems natural and healthy, Prof. Freidberg traces the ways freshness is, in fact, engineered, manufactured, and marketed. Her cultural history of freshness is likely to prompt a different understanding of the milk and lettuce in your refrigerator. Freidberg is currently a Burkhardt Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Studies in Cambridge, MA.
An Appetite for Couscous
Finally, on April 30 at 4PM, Sylvie Durmelat will present “Reel Couscous: The Migrant’s Table on Screen in Maghrebi-French Cinema.” Prof. Durmelat combines her interests in collective identities, food studies, and post-colonial studies as Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Georgetown University, where she teaches a seminar called “Food for Thought.” In her current book project, The Taste of Empire: Food Exchanges and Table Matters between France and the Maghreb, Durmelat explores the hunger for connection that may be particularly pronounced among immigrants.