Critical Studies in Food and Culture
is now a Facebook page:
see Critical Studies in Food and Culture

Please connect with us there!

archive of site

David Michalski wine taste     Davis Humanities Institute Research Cluster
  Critical Studies in Food & Culture
    University of California Davis


Faculty Advisor :

Kimberly Nettles, Ph.D.

Women & Gender Studies
Professor, UC Davis


Rosalinda Salazar
English, Ph.D. Candidate

Stacy Jameson
Cultural Studies, Ph.D. Candidate

David Michalski, Ph.D.
Social and Cultural Studies Librarian, UC Davis

(office: 530-752-2086)



University of California, Davis

Davis Humanities Institute

UC MCRP: Food and the Body

American Studies Department

Graduate Program in Cultural Studies

Food and Culture Texts:
Some New Books at the University Library, UC Davis

Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science

Culinary Historians of Northern California

Association for the Study of Food and Society

Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture

Critical Studies in Food and Culture supports and shares critical work
on the cultural aspects of foodways, food practices, and consumption.

CSFC represents faculty and graduate students whose research and teaching focuses on the critical investigation of food and culture. This research cluster enables interdisciplinary collaboration and support for researchers across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and food-related disciplines who are engaged in contemporary and historical studies of the cultures of food production and consumption. It holds workshops and symposia as well as more formal presentations of important new work in the cultural studies of food, such as the critical investigation of taste, the analysis of culinary practices and representations, and the intersection of food with the arts, humanities, and society. CSFC primarily serves as a means for UC Davis scholars to connect with each other, and scholars across the University of California, but it also seeks to engage the wider scholarly community interested in common questions and pursuing similarly focused research in food and cultural studies.

CSFC is currently planning its 2011-2012 speakers series. UC Davis Graduate Students who have an interest in studying food and culture are invited to contact Rosalinda Salazar to participate.

Past Events

Winter 2009

What Makes Artisan Cheese Artisanal?
Art, Craft, and Science in American Artisan Cheesemaking

Heather Paxson
Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Thursday March 19, 4PM

University of California, Davis

In recent decades, handcrafted American cheeses, many made on farms  with as few as a dozen cows or goats, have proliferated. As a rule,  the new cheesemakers know rudimentary microbiology and are careful to avoid contaminating cheese rooms with barnyard bacteria. Yet they speak of their craft as an aesthetic experience, involving subjective  judgment of taste, feel, personal vision. Based on interviews and  participant-observation, this paper investigates how today’s neo- artisans, in their sanitized, laboratory-like cheese rooms and their  moldy caves, acquire and engage tacit knowledge of the controlled  rotting that is cheese-making. Offering an account of how lay  practitioners construe and reconcile what counts as “art,” “craft,”  and “science,” it revisits the Aristotelian techne/episteme divide and offers anthropological reflections on artisanship and expertise, both topics of longstanding interest in Science Technology Studies.

Heather Paxson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at MIT. The  author of _Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban  Greece_. (University of California, 2004), she is interested in how  people make sense of new bioscientific knowledge and changing  economic realities in their everyday lives through such quotidian  practices as sex and parenting, and food preparation and eating. She  is currently undertaking an ethnographic exploration of a recent  renaissance in artisan cheesemaking in the United States. She  received the PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University in 1998.

Fall 2009

Slow Food, Slow Film

Dennis Rothermel
Professor and Chair, Department of Philosophy
California State University, Chico

November 7, 2008
12:00 Noon -- Brown Bag
Location TBA

This talk draws parallels between the products of industrialized food and the products of industrialized cinema, through a discussion of two Hollywood remakes of foreign films about food and cooking -- Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman and Sandra Nettlebeck's Bella Martha.   The traits of mainstream cinema manipulative effects are easily identified in the Hollywood adaptations, and a parallel transformation in the food content as well. The lecture will conclude with some philosophical remarks deriving from Hubert Dreyfus' exposition of gift-giving and Roberto Esposito's development of normativization.

co-sponsered by film studies.

Spring 2008

Much Ado About Soul Food

Psyche Williams-Forson

Friday, May 16th
1:30p in 3201
Hart Hall, UC Davis

Psyche Williams-Forson
author of the award winning Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, & Power. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), which explores the ties between African-American food culture, entrepreneurship, travel and racism. Her lecture at UC Davis examined the visual culture of soul food in the effort to look critically at the way its representations attend to gender and racial constructions.

Prof. Williams-Forson also led a graduate research workshop during her visit, sponsored by CSFC.

Read more about Psyche Williams-Forson at
NYT Book Review
August 13, 2006
The Gospel Bird
Review by MATT LEE and TED LEE

These events were made possible by the Davis Humanities Institute and co-sponsoring 
University groups, including Women and Gender Stuudies, African and African American Studies, and Black Family Week.

Starbucks, Consumption and Globality

Starbucks, Consumption and Globality

JeeEun Song

DATE: April 18th
TIME: 2:00-3:30PM
LOCATION: Voorhies 228, UC Davis

Join Critical Studies in Food and Culture research cluster for a discussion of Starbucks, Consumption and Globality with Ph. D Candidate JeeEun Song.  Song will explore the business models and the preferred consumption codes  of Starbucks in Korea.  This work-in-progress asks us to consider: “To a nation in economic crisis and to those with many of their friends, family and parents out of jobs, what could be more inspiring than a success story of a man who established an empire with one cup at a time?”

This conversation is drawn from Song’s dissertation

“Building an Empire One Cup at a Time: Cultural Meaning and Power of Starbucks Korea”

which explores the gendered meaning of coffee consumption practices in Korea and the complex meanings attached to circumscribed leisure environments for negotiating the advent of “globality” including the global nature of social relationships and interdependencies and the continuing contradictions of U.S.-Korea  relations.

Winter 2008

The Future of Wine History
a discussion on the position of culture in
Robert Mondavi’s Mission.

a screening of
The Mission
(Crowley & Associates/Mediawest, 1989)

with an introduction by 

Axel Borg
Wine Bibliography and Librarian
University of California, Davis

and commentary and discussion with

David Michalski
Cultural Studies
University of California, Davis

February 7th, 2008   
3201 Hart Hall    
University of California,  Davis

In the late 1980s the Robert Mondavi Winery embarked upon a project known as the Mission. Part public relations campaign and part manifesto, the Mission called on the California wine industry to promote wine as a steadfast companion to humanity. It insisted, that in the hands of master craftspeople, wine could be as distinguished and as noble as any of the arts.

For Robert Mondavi, the advancement of wine quality in California depended on this promotion of wine’s cultural legacy, one that connected the work of Californian vintners to a history of wine that stretched back to antiquity and continued through the great estates of modern France.

Against neo-prohibitionists and others, the Robert Mondavi winery drew from the history of the arts to establish wine as an aesthetic object, endowed with positive cultural values. 

In this presentation we will screen one part of this larger campaign, a ten minute film called _The Mission_ wherein the Mondavi family makes its case that wine quality and a knowledge and understanding of wine culture are coextensive. 

The film will be introduced by Axel Borg, who will historicize _The Mission_ by providing the context of its making, as well as insight into the relations between Robert Mondavi, the wider California wine industry, and the University of California, Davis.

Following the screening, David Michalski will lead a commentary and discussion on the concept of history and culture introduced in _The Mission_, the implications such conceptions have for wine aesthetics, and the possibilities they present to our contemporary understanding of wine and wine history.

Fall 2007

Landscapes of Fruit, Cityscapes of Profit: Fruit Speculation in the Antebellum Midwest

Erica Hannickel

American Studies, University of Iowa

Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Davis Humanities Institute Conference Room
228 Voorhies Hall
University of California, Davis

Nineteenth century public memory records that famous fruit speculators Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845) and Nicholas Longworth (1783-1863) were enigmatic yet beneficent characters. Both fruit entrepreneurs altered the early Ohio landscape, brought new types of alcohol (one hard cider, the other refined wine) to the new West, and continued a national interest in fruit culture in the growing regional center. But beyond their place in frontier myth, Appleseed and Longworth are early models of a type of agricultural imperialism and capitalist accumulation previously thought to begin in California decades later. Indeed, and in antebellum Ohio, no less, “Johnny” and “Old Nick” used their fruits as expansionist tools in the soon-to-be-solidified Midwestern frontier zone of capitalist speculation. The imperial, racial, and class tensions of the orchard and vineyard are registered in many further cultural locations. Charles Chesnutt’s “The Goophered Grapevine” (1887) illustrates that alcohol production, real estate investment, labor exploitation, and fruit growing were not-so-strange bedfellows in the 19th century. Commercial viticulture provided easy justification for turning public property into private property, legitimating neo-slavery techniques of sharecropping and cheap land sale, and divorcing local ways of_knowing and senses of place from their long-standing basis in the land.

Erica Hannickel is a PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Iowa. She is finishing her dissertation, An Imperial Vineland: Commercial Grape Growing in 19th Century America, on an American Association of University Women (AAUW) fellowship this year. A native of Rocklin, California, she received her BA in Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego and MA in American Studies at CSU Fullerton. When not researching and writing, she is an avid organic gardener and yogi.

CSFC Fall 2007 Reception

We held a Fall Reception, Wednesday October 24th at 6pm in 3201 Hart hall, at UC Davis so the wide array of scholars pursuing interesting work in the study of food and food cultures could meet to discuss their research interests, announce new initiatives, and contribute their ideas for enhancing the critical investigations in food and consumption studies.

We  announced a few additions to the CSFC Speaker's Series, and recruited presenters for our Project Workshops.

CSFC Fall Reception
3201 Hart Hall on the UC Davis campus,
Wednesday 6PM, October 24, 2007.

Spring 2007

Symposium in honor of Professor Grivetti

Nutritional Geography Symposium in honor of

Louis E. Grivetti

Friday, May 11, 2007
University Club,
University of California, Davis

This talk is open to the public.


Distinguished Speakers:

Britta Antonsson-Ogle, Researcher, Department of Urban and RuralDevelopment, SLU “‘Use It Or Lose It’- Edible Wild Plants InNutrition And Food Security. ”

Jan. L. Corlett, Special Assistant to the Provost, University ofCalifornia Office of the President “Perspectives On NutritionalGeography: Stories From The Field.”

Bertram M. Gordon, Professor, Mills College “California,France, And The Medium Of Chocolate: Is There A Link?.”

Winter 2007

Timothy Tomasik
Assistant Professor of French
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Valparaiso University

Cuisine by the Cut of One's Trousers:
Cookbook Marketing in Renaissance France  

February 23rd, 2007
228 Voorhies
UC Davis


Tim Tomasik, Assistant Professor of French at Valparaiso University in Indiana, holds a Ph.D in Romance languages from Harvard University.  Professor Tomasik’s work focuses on late medieval and early modern French literature with a particular emphasis on culinary discourses (cookbooks, natural histories, and dietetic treatises).  An active professional translator, Professor Tomasik is currently working on a critical edition and translation of the early sixteenth-century morality play, La Condamnation de Banquet.


“’Cuisine by the Cut of One’s Trousers’:  Cookbook Marketing in Renaissance France”

Contrary to what some culinary historians have been asserting up until the last decade or so, the French Renaissance did actually have a thriving trade in homegrown cookbooks.  The late medieval French cookbook known as the Viandier galvanized a reappraisal of early modern cuisine by updating its culinary repertoire and making its text more accessible to an increasingly wider audience.  This tactic clearly resonated with the reading public because the printed Viandier became a culinary bestseller, appearing in at least twenty-five printed editions between 1486 and 1615.  By strategically “marketing” cookbooks to the widest audience possible, the various printers of the Viandier were undoubtedly endeavoring to ensure a profitable market share.  However, in so doing, they made available to modest tables the means to imagine if not produce the meals of a cultural and culinary elite.  Beginning in the 1530’s, a new generation of cookbooks appears in France that synthesizes the innovations of earlier sixteenth-century texts.  Between 1536 and 1627 appear twenty-seven editions of a cookbook associated with the printer Pierre Sergent, bearing witness to the literate public’s appetite for works of cookery.  Title pages, woodcuts, and prefatory remarks demonstrate how these cookbooks were being marketed to a wide spectrum of social stations and potential readerships, each representing contradictory desires.  Such an analysis demonstrates that banquets are not limited to an elite sector of society.  Rather, the Renaissance banquet is a space whose contours can be adapted to fit a number of occasions, accommodating diners from all strata of society.



Project Workshops

CSFC holds project workshops for faculty and graduate students working in the areas of food, culture and consumption.
To find out about how to participate in CSFC research workshops please email...
Stacy Jameson

Fall 2006

Carole Counihan

Professor of Anthropology (Millersville University, PA)  

Speaking Food and Making Place in the San Luis Valley of Colorado

November 14 Tuesday, 2006
4:10-5:30 pm at 126 Voorhies, UC Davis

Counihan discusses her fieldwork, food-centered life history interviews that she has collected since 1996 in the small Mexicano town of Antonito in the southern San Luis Valley of Colorado. By examining Mexicanas’ diverse constructions of foods, landscapes, rivers, and gardens, she explores the relationship between the food voice and place in anthropological method and theory. Through stories about foods and places, traditionally silenced people portray culture, express gender, and enrich the historical record: these life histories contest stereotypes about the Chicanos’ relegation of women to the home and disregard for environmental conservation. They reveal longstanding roots in the land, which can provide cultural legitimacy and economic sustenance, hallmarks of Chicano cultural citizenship.

Ken Albala
Professor of History at the University of the Pacific

A Hill of Beans: A History of the World's Most Ubiquitous Peasant Food

October 27, 2006
12:10- 1:30 pm
at 2203 Social Sciences and Humanities Bldg. UC Davis

Description: Ken Abala offers a series of mini-biographies of various legume species and what they reveal about the people who will or will not eat them.

Spring 2006

Meredith Abarca

University of Texas, El Paso  

Food-Centered Discourses: Intellectual Communities Across Fields of Knowledge

Friday, April 28th at 12:00PM, 2006
Voorhies 228, UC Davis

The talk will raise a number of intellectual as well as ethical questions regarding the negotiation of food politics and philosophy embedded within different areas of food studies as well as food/cooking practices. Two communities voices prevalent within my work are the discourse of working-class Mexican and Mexican-American women and those of feminist’s university researchers. What subjectivities are negotiated when "charlas" about food take place between these two groups? How do these food talks change our understanding of the “knowledge” either group professes to have, and their relationship (responsibilities and obligations) to society at large? This talk will explore three aspects: first, how does the language of food speak differently according to its localized place? Second, what are the conceptual ways in which food-centered discourses overlap in particular places? This overlap creates what she calls a borderless boundary zone. The final exploration, therefore, asks: what are the strengths, as well as the limitations, in bridging the food voices of/from different places and spaces?

About the speaker: Meredith E. Abarca received a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of California at Davis. She is an assistant professor of English at the University of Texas, El Paso, where she teaches courses on Chicana/o Literature, Mexican-American Folklore, Film and Literature of the Americas, Critical Theory, and Women Philosophers in the Kitchen. Her book Voices in the Kitchen: Views of Food and the World from Working-Class Mexican and Mexican American Women was recently released by Texas A&M University Press.

March Madness- two talks on meat, crisis, and mad cow disease in American culture.

Friday, March 3, 2006
12 Noon in 228 Voorhies
University California, Davis

Lynn Houston
Professor of English
California State University, Chico

'Not Business-As-Usual': Mad Cow Disease As Cultural Crisis

This presentation takes up Heidegger’s questions about the nature and "event" of technology, theorizing the role of technology in our everyday lives, in the formation of our beings, and most importantly, theorizing how technology functions in the construction (or destruction) of our subjectivity through the production of our food. To this aim, the phenomenon of mad cow disease is read as a cultural crisis that reveals and makes unfamiliar to us values and norms that we have come to taken for granted, thus calling into question the body as site of discourse. This crisis critiques values regarding the subject/object distinction, as well as other categories/boundaries/borders, the material conditions of personhood, and the production and circulation of knowledge in global, industrial capitalism.

Lynn Houston is currently a tenure-track assistant professor of American literature in the English Department of California State University, Chico. Prior to that, she held a visiting assistant professorship in southeastern Louisiana. Lynn received her doctoral degree from Arizona State University; her dissertation was entitled "The Mad Cow Nexus: The Stakes/Steaks of Personhood in Global, Industrial Food Production." She first began her work in food studies during her masters work at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, while funded by a Fulbright grant for independent research in comparative literature.


Laura Hudson
Cultural Studies Graduate Group, University of California, Davis

It's a mad mad mad mad world: Mad Cow and Meat Systems

Ten years ago, the U.S. "mad cow" crisis reached a head with the appearance of former cattle rancher turned vegan activist Howard Lyman on the Oprah Winfrey show. Lyman’s account of common meat industry practices, including the use of cattle proteins in cattle feed, led Oprah to exclaim: “It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger!” The National Cattleman's Beef Association sued both Lyman and Winfrey for their statements. Fear that meat production practices might result in a public health crisis was secondary to fear over the economic effects that public distrust would have on the industry. While mad cow disease has largely faded from the public eye, superseded by the explosion of other crises, the industry continues to employ production methods that put public health at risk in the interests of industry profit. What an investigation of industry and government response to the threat of mad cow disease reveals is that it is not the cows that have gone mad, but the system itself.

Founding Food Studies
An Interdisciplinary Symposium of UC Davis Faculty and Graduate Students

featuring a keynote address by
Amy Bentley

professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health from NYU

May 3, 2006
3201 Hart Hall
University of California, Davis


A variety of graduate students from UC Davis presents their work on food from numerous disciplinary angles. Session panels include Food Lessons, Food politics, Containing Food, and Food Pleasures. Each session will be followed by commentary from UC Davis Faculty whose work is also food related.

Amy Bentley, professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health from NYU will be giving the keynote at lunch.

This conference is free and open to all, and lunch will be

Download poster (PDF)

Winter 2006

Charlotte Biltekoff

Postdoctoral Scholar in Food Science and
Technology and American Studies
University of California, Davis

Dietary Ideals / Social Ideals: A Cultural Perspective on Food and Health

Friday, February 3rd 12:00, 2006
Voorhies 228, UC Davis

This talk will explore the meaning of dietary health from a cultural and a historical perspective and show why it is important to understand the social role that dietary advice plays. It will consider the relationship between dietary ideals and social ideals in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present, focusing primarily on the World War II National Nutrition Program, a massive homefront nutrition education program. My central claim will be that the nutrition lessons promoted by wartime dietary reformers aimed not only for individual health but also for social well-being, and that wartime dietary ideals also delineated the boundaries of fitness for citizenship. Towards the end of the talk, we will reflect on how this historical perspective on dietary advice might help us to think about the social role of dietary ideals within the contemporary context of the obesity epidemic.

About the Speaker:
Charlotte Biltekoff is currently working on developing a cross-college program in food studies at the University of California at Davis, where she is a postdoctoral scholar with appointments in Food Science and Technology and American Studies. Her book project, “Hidden Hunger: Food, Health and Citizenship from the Late Nineteenth Century to the Obesity Epidemic” is a cultural history of the relationship between dietary ideals and social ideals in the United States. Charlotte recently completed her graduate work in American Civilization at Brown University. Prior to starting graduate school, she cooked at several restaurants in San Francisco and received her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley.