3/27/2014 CSOC808, Module1- Icebreaker Activity
Welcome to Food and Foodways! An important part of this course will be our interactions with each other
through individual blogs and the class discussion board. These give us a chance to get to know each other
and share ideas, which is crucial for learning in an online environment, where we don't have any face-to-face
So let's get right into an introductory exercise to get to know each other better. This first exercise will also be
your introduction to your individual class blog. You will each have a blog of your own, which is a space for you
to share your ideas about food with your classmates as well as a space for your classmates to comment on
what you share. This interaction will also be part of your participation mark (see the Course Outline on
For our first virtual interaction, we will each introduce ourselves and share a food memory through the blog.
You need to do this in two steps:
1. Familiarize yourself with the Blackboard Blog function
2. Create your first blog post
Familiarize yourself with Blackboard Blogging
To start blogging, all you need to do is click on the "Blog" link in the left-hand column in Blackboard after you
log-in to the course page. It will bring you to the Course Blogs page.
Then, click on "Blogs" under "Name."
Next, click on "Create blog entry" and follow the instructions. When making a blog post, always cut and paste
your text into the box. Do NOT upload a text file.
On the next page, we'll talk about what you'll write about in your first blog post.
Your First Blog Post
A Vivid Food Memory
a) For your first blog post
Due: Friday of this session, 12 noon, ET.
Give a very short introduction of yourself: your name, where you live (city), and your area of study (e.g., Are
you an undergraduate sociology major? Or in another program? Or are you working/out of school and just
taking this course for interest?). You're also welcome to post a personal photo if you like, so people can put a
name to a face. However, a photo is not necessary.
Next, tell us the name of a food that you have a particular vivid memory of (either positive or negative) growing
up, and give a one-sentence description of that food.
Tell us what you remember in particular about the food (e.g., taste, smell, texture, who made it, etc.) and why it
is a strong memory for you.
Post a photo of the food, if you can find one (make sure to cite the source and URL for the photo if you got it
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Although the due date is Friday, you might want to post sooner than that. The sooner the posts go
up, the sooner others can read them and comment, and the sooner we can all get to know each
Keep track of your blog posts in your Blog Log. See the Course Outline and Example Blog Log (in
"Assignments") for details.
b) Comment on other blogs
Due: Friday of session 2, 12 noon, ET.
As an introduction to the commenting function, try to comment on at least one blog post done by a classmate
in your assigned group. Of course, you are welcome to comment on more! (If you do comment on more, you
can go outside of your assigned group, if you like. But keeping to your assigned group will mean that you can
get to know fewer people better over the course of the term). You can find a list of your group members under
Blackboard "Groups/Group Discussion Board".
Keep track of your comments in your Blog Log. See the Course Outline and Example Blog Log (in
"Assignments") for details.
Tip for blog comments: Make sure to avoid short, un-detailed comments like "Good job." Instead,
aim for more substantive posts describing things like why you like or relate to the post, and,
whenever possible, how the post relates to the course topics, concepts, and readings.
Topics and Learning Objectives
Introductions to the course and to each other
An overview of the factors that influence food choices
The development of food studies and its key characteristics
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
Describe why food habits are not only determined by individual choices but also by larger social
discourses, structures, relationships, and institutions.
Define important terms for the field such as food system and food studies.
Explain some key elements of food studies and its development.
Locate your own food choices within larger social structures and relationships.
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Critical Perspectives in Food Studies, Chapters 1 and 2
Note about course readings: In general, it is recommended that you do the readings before you
go through the course module content (i.e., what is posted online). As in the classroom, if you do
the readings beforehand, this will help you to better understand the module content.
When you do the readings, it is highly recommended that you take notes about key points and
take down the definitions of key concepts. This will help you as you go through the modules. It will
also help you prepare for the tests.
Think about the following questions on your own:
What did you eat and/or drink at your most recent meal?
Why did you eat and/or drink those foods in particular?
Make a list of the factors that influenced your choice or the choice of the person who made the
food, if it wasn't you. Try to name at least five factors. Keep the list for later as you will be referring
to it at the end of this module.
What Makes Food Sociologically Interesting?
We often think of our food choices as something we decide on individually and consciously. For example,
when asked why they eat particular foods, people often say that they choose based on aesthetics (e.g., how a
food tastes, smells, or looks) or practicalities (e.g., how much it costs or how easy it is to make).
But food habits are also shaped by other things, often beyond our direct and conscious control. This becomes
more clear if we consider how people eat in different geographic areas, in different social groups, and in
different time periods.
For example, why do you think the following things are true?
Canadians eat more meat now than in the past.
Men eat more meat than women.
Canadians eat two times more meat than Japanese people (FAO, 2013).
If food choices were only individually based, we wouldn't see these kinds of larger patterns.
When thinking about reasons, did you consider the role of culture, including changing ideas about health and
masculinity and femininity? What about the role of the economy and government policies or institutions?
Sociologists emphasize that eating does not simply fill a biological need: it carries diverse social and cultural
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Our food habits and our food system are influenced by a complex set of social relations, processes,
structures, and institutions. Food scholars also emphasize that the food system is structured by
relations of power, which lead to inequaliti—sboth within and across nations— and contribute to
In the following pages, we'll look at some of these issues in more detail.
Food, Culture, and Identity: The "Micro" Level 1
The 18th century French epicure Brillat-Savarin famously said, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who
Think about this quotation for a moment in relation to your own food habits and those of people around you.
What do you think what you eat says about who you are?
Here's an activity to help you think about this more. Picture the following person in your head, without thinking
hard about it:
What does a vegan look like (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, age, fashion style, body type, etc.)? Did you
assume anything else about them (e.g., income, class, education, etc.)?
Now do the same for:
Someone who often eats at McDonald's.
Someone who makes jams and preserves from scratch.
What did you notice about your assumptions?
Post some of your observations to the Group Discussion Board (If you're the first to post, start a
thread called "Assumptions about Food & Identity"). Also, take a look at some of your classmates'
posts. What patterns do you notice about what we assume? You can post observations about
patterns as well.
Our assumptions show that social discourses (ideas that circulate in our society about particular issues)
shape the identities we ascribe to people–and that which they ascribe to themselves–based on personal food
The Group and Class Discussion Boards provide opportunities for you to discuss issues related to
the module content. They are the online equivalents of small group and whole-class discussions in
the regular (face-to-face) classroom. As you'll see, in each module, there are various
opportunities for you to participate in the Group or Class Discussion Board. Your participation in
these is not marked. This is your opportunity to explore course issues freely without worrying
about a grade. Also, it is not mandatory that you post at every suggested opportunity. Sometimes,
other students who've posted before you will have already covered what you might have wanted to
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say. In such cases, you can feel free to just read the posts without commenting. Or, you're also
welcome to add to, or agree with earlier posts.
Keep in mind that every though the Discussion Boards are not graded, reading the Boards and
contributing to them are excellent ways for you to internalize the theories and concepts that we
cover. The more you participate, the more you will increase your understanding of course
concepts. Also, participation will help you prepare for the class tests.
Food, Culture, and Identity: The "Micro" Level 2
As you probably noticed from the activity on the last page, food does not simply sustain our physical bodies;
food has social, emotional, spiritual, and political meaning. It is "a symbol, a product, a ritual object, an identity
badge, an object of guilt, [and] a political tool" (Reardon, 2000, p.1).
Let's look at some of the roles of food:
A symbol: A sit-down meal, especially in the evening, can symbolize and create feelings of "family." Holiday
foods are essential markers of holiday meals and celebrations.
A product: In 21st century Canada, where people grow food themselves much less than before, food is
almost always a product or a commodity–something we buy from a store or restaurant. It is not something we
can normally access for free, such as tap water. (Think about why—after all, we need both food and water to
survive. More about this later in the course.)
A ritual object: Food can be a symbol during religious ceremonies or rituals. For example, horseradish is a
symbol of the suffering of Israelite slaves in Egypt in the Jewish Passover Seder meal (see Figure 1.1). Food
can also be involved in more everyday rituals, such as the giving of a gift to the host/ess (e.g., a bottle of
wine, chocolates) when one is invited to his or her home.
An identity badge: An upper middle-class Torontonian might eat foods from various ethno-cultural
backgrounds to indicate (perhaps unconsciously) that she is "knowledgeable" or "hip." A teenager might eat
fast food to fit in with his peers.
An object of emotions: We might feel guilty after eating what we think are unhealthy or fattening foods. We
might also seek comfort or nostalgia in foods we ate as kids. Boredom, loneliness, and a myriad of other
emotions may trigger a desire for food.
A political tool: Eating organic or local food, or boycotting certain products, may be a way people hope to
improve the food system. Activists might stage hunger strikes.
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Figure 1.1: The Jewish Passover Seder Plate, with several symbolic foods, including horseradish
Source: Wikicommons, Brandon L. Saunders, 2011
Let’s think about food as not only a ritual or symbolic object for
special occasions (like the Passover Seder) but as a ritual or
symbolic object in more everyday situations. If you think about
your current or future family (however you define “family”), how
important is it to you that you share a sit-down meal at home, with
all members present, at least once a week?
If you answered "very important" or "somewhat important" to the poll question, think about why. Why is a
shared meal–or shared food–important for a family? If you'd like, share some of your thoughts on the Class
Discussion Board. (If you're the first to post, you can start a post called "Food & Family")
Food and Political Economic Relations: The "Macro"
Sociologists are also interested in the "macro" level of the food system. They consider the influence of agri-
food policies, national political economic systems, and international relations and trade on food habits and
The case of corn in North America demonstrates the complex relationships between these macro-level
structures and what and how we eat.
During the early 20th century, depression and war resulted in food shortages in North America. As a result,
governments put into place subsidies for farmers. The more of a crop a farmer produced, the more financial
support he or she would receive.
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This resulted in an