MIDEAST 209 - Food and Drink in the Middle East
Section: 001
Term: FA 2018
Subject: Middle East Studies (MIDEAST)
Department: LSA Middle East Studies
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

The need for food is one of the most elementary aspects of human existence; the history of food reaches into the earliest times of mankind, and encompasses economy, technology, social life, religion, literature, and many more.

“Show me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are”: how does this claim work in the cultural fabric of the Middle East? Where and how are staples, meats, spices produced and traded? How are they prepared? What do local and regional differences mean? Who owns culinary traditions? What food is prepared for what occasion, and who is invited? Which foods (and drinks!) are taboo? We use food and drink as a lens to look at life and culture, with the ultimate goal to humanize the social and political history of the Middle East, and make it relatable in new ways, through a combination of fundamental knowledge, rigorous analysis, and experiential learning. We explore the social and cultural history of Middle Eastern food and drink from various disciplinary angles, examining archaeological records from Mesopotamia and Egypt, medieval cookbooks and wine poetry from Baghdad, imperial art and account books of the Ottoman palace, to modern cookbook-memoirs, but also including a direct experience of culinary practices in the Middle East and the diaspora.

Discourse about food is an increasingly important aspect of modern American life. While cooking as cultural technique becomes a matter for the specialist, choices of what and how to eat have become ever more complex, riddled with concerns about affordability, culture, and health. A history of food and drink that takes us back to the origins will help students to reflect critically and self-critically on our own habits and attitudes towards food.

Course Requirements:

The course is designed around four fundamental dimensions of engagement with the history and culture of food: ingredients, processing, consumption, and interpretation. These four categories are the headings for the four main chapters of the course. Each chapter will use one or several sample dishes as entry points for analysis. Each will conclude with a quiz (together 20% of total grade) and a short paper assignment (5 pages each, 4 x 10% of the total grade)—one on contemporary practice (restaurant or home cooking); one on economy or technology; one on a cultural issue associated with food and drink (identity, religion). Students will be asked to contribute to a course blog, and work on a group creative project, which might include cooking and documenting a meal, re-enacting a food ritual, or critically reviewing a restaurant meal (20%). Participation counts for 20%.

Intended Audience:

Any undergraduate student with an interest in culture, history, archaeology, anthropology, or religion of the Middle East

MIDEAST 209 - Food and Drink in the Middle East
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (DIS)
F 10:00AM - 11:00AM
003 (DIS)
F 12:00PM - 1:00PM
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