Undergraduate Course Descriptions

01:420:283 - French Gastronomy and Global Food Culture

  • SAS Core Learning: CCO, HST
  • Language Taught In: Taught in English
  • Credits: 3

Offered: Spring (no prerequisites)

Course Description

What are the secrets of the French diet? Why did UNESCO declare French meals part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage? In what ways is the gastronomy of France still relevant today?

In this course you will explore food practices in France, from medieval banquets to ready-to-serve dishes and technology-driven futurist cooking. We will ask how food habits and culinary practices change over time and how culinary culture contributes to shape local, national, and transnational identity. Contemporary issues will be related to key moments in the history of French food: meals as social and political performance; culinary revolutions; the rationalization of culinary work and kitchen architecture; the industrialization of food; the impact of technology and media on food habits; the waning influence of French gastronomy on global food culture.

Class activities include recreating recipes of the past and exploring culinary media, from Early Modern food writing to the first cooking shows to contemporary social media. Assignments will promote a variety of methodologies and disciplinary perspectives. Individualized research topics allow students to build on interests and areas of expertise, from Anthropology to Food Science.

Taught synchronously, the course will also include asynchronous components. Should students encounter problems attending a given class session, they will find course materials and written and/or recorded summaries of class discussions posted on the LMS (Canvas) after the end of each session. Personal contacts by email weekdays 9 AM-5 PM or by Zoom during office hours and upon arrangement.

Students interested in the French Language: This course is taught in conjunction with Regional Cuisines of France, a 1-credit culture and language module for students who wish to practice French by learning about regional recipes. Interested students must register for 01:991:105:K4 (01:420:132, 137 or placement required). The additional module is offered synchronously but can also be taken by arrangement. When taken with this module 420:283 may count as an upper-level elective for the major or minor.

Language of Instruction - English

Course URL - A Canvas link will be available at the beginning of the Semester.

Course Satisfies Learning Goals

EVALUATE food as total social fact: by mid-semester you will be able to grasp how socio-economic structures relate to values, beliefs, and forms of artistic expression.

DOCUMENT and DISCUSS. By the end of the semester you will be able to identify and meaningfully combine a variety of sources and data to research a topic relevant to your educational background, interests and career goals.

Satisfies SAS Core Learning Goals

APPROACH a contemporary global issue from multiple perspectives: by mid-semester you will be able to connect insights from two or more disciplines to your own experience. [CCO]

EXPLAIN the origins of food practices and their development over time: by the end of the semester you will be able to fully grasp the historical specificity of cultural practices, including our own. [HST]

Exams, Assignments, and Grading Policy

Students will demonstrate their mastery of learning goals weekly via class discussion, quizzes, and/or short written assignments; and at regular intervals throughout the semester via oral and/or audio-visual presentations. There is no mid-term or final examination.

Final grade

Preparation (10%); participation including oral contribution and written discussion (20%); oral presentation (20%); written assignments (20%); research paper (30%)


Freedman, Paul, et al., Food in Time and Place: the American Historical Association Companion to Food History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. ISBN 9780520283589. Read chapters on-line or download a PDF version through Rutgers library services.

Additional readings will be available or linked in the LMS (Canvas)