Texas Tech University

Are You What You Eat? Class Explores Intersection of Food and Culture

Abby Stone

July 27, 2020

Students will gain a better understanding of the relationship between food and identity through face-to-face and virtual instruction.


This fall, students will have the opportunity to learn a 2,000-year-old recipe for brewing beer, explore the secret history of ketchup and eat baked crickets. Carol Lindquist, an assistant professor of practice of sociology and Michael Jordan, associate professor of cultural anthropology will collaborate for instruction in the cross-listed Food and Culture course, SOC 3300: 003/ANTH 3317:001.

The course will combine aspects of sociology and anthropology to give students a better understanding of the relationship between food and identity. It is an opportunity to explore food as a social phenomenon and learn about its importance through a variety of ways, ranging from hands-on, physical realities that give students the chance to taste something while considering its emotional significance to an abstract or symbolic force.

"As a cultural anthropologist, I have always been fascinated by the way in which food and culture are intertwined," Jordan said. "Eating is a fundamental activity in which all humans engage. It is a cultural, universal, shared act and, as such, it provides an excellent point of departure for exploring different cultures. While we all eat, what we eat and how we prepare and serve that food varies greatly across cultures."

Lindquist and Jordan will collaborate on modules, each playing to their respective strengths. Each class will be a true collaboration, as both instructors will contribute their expertise on the topic.

"The combination of anthropology and sociology is a natural fit, so working together seemed like a good idea," Lindquist said. "It gives us a chance to pull together a multi-dimensional curriculum with fun and unusual elements, such as extra-credit assignments in which students trade and prepare a variety of recipes."

The course will examine how archaeologists study past food practices and contributions that Native Americans and African Americans have made to food and explore contemporary movements that seek to shape relationships with food.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the course will be taught synchronously online, once a week on Wednesdays from 6-8:50 p.m., through a hybrid method that combines face-to-face and virtual elements as part of the Texas Tech Commitment initiative.

"I am excited about the possibility of having guest speakers join us remotely," Jordan said. "It will be great for students to have a chance to interact with these individuals. It is relatively easy for a chef from out of state to join us online for a conversation"

"Early on, we realized that the ideal classroom for this course would include a kitchen –optimally with multiple prep stations – which is not to be found in our usual classrooms," Lindquist said. "However, with each student online from a different environment, that is actually possible, as most living spaces include a kitchen or food area with microwave, water, etc. We included assignments that provide students with opportunities to actually prepare food and share recipes, food stories and techniques and eat for class credit."

The course will include class discussions, where personal experiences can be shared about family traditions, holiday dishes and comfort foods.

"Both Dr. Lindquist and I love to cook, so we are hoping to share that passion with our students," Jordan said. "We will encourage them to try their hand at cooking or baking. Each module will be accompanied by a list of recipes. These might be historic recipes or recipes from a specific region or culture. We will offer extra credit to students who choose to prepare one of these dishes and share their experience with the class."

Both Lindquist and Jordan hope to share their adventurous eating habits with students. From donkey burgers and sushi made with raw horse meat, to braised reindeer and kangaroo steaks, the instructors are well experienced in unique foods.

The course is open to all majors; however, the sociology section requires students to have taken an introductory sociology course. The anthropology section has no prerequisites. Students can register for either the anthropology section or sociology section, and both are worth three credit hours.