Freshmen at Stanford this winter will be treated to an introductory seminar in the Linguistics Department all about “the vocabulary of food and prepared dishes, and crosslinguistic similarities and differences, historical origins, forms and meanings, and relationship to cultural and social variables.” Say what? (O, Academia, how terrific you are at complicating things.) The course was offered before in 2008, and the whole syllabus is here, and both the homework and the final “paper” in the course are to be done as blog entries. About food. And “the cognitive science of taste and food language,” and stuff. Oh, but there’s more.
The closer we read the syllabus the more we understand that it won’t exactly be like an adult-education how-to for starting one’s own food blog — à la Marge Simpson in that recent and hilarious send-up of food bloggery on The Simpsons. Rather the course seeks to make students get really analytical about everything they write about food on these homework-blogs, and the state of food journalism in general. For instance, there’s a whole unit devoted to “food and cultural capital” in which they try to understand how various foods have risen to “gourmet” status — readings include this academic paper that discusses how Bon Appétit elevated the hamburger to its cover in 2004, declaring it the “dish of the year.” And there’s another unit devoted to “drunken speech” and the phonetics of intoxication — actually that is exactly the kind of training that would assist one in doing our job, especially at cocktail-tasting events.
Anyway, we totally wish we could audit this thing next semester. But if we had to think this much about what we’re typing every hour on the hour, we would clearly lose our minds.
The Language of Food [Stanford]
Related: The Politics Of Cannibalism. Or, Crazy Things Academics Write About [NPR]