You Are What You Eat (11-12)

Writing after the close of the French Revolution, the gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously wrote, “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.” Food is a part of our lives that we often take for granted, but as Brillat-Savarin well knew, it is much more than simple nourishment. Law, politics, commerce, and art all find a clear expression in food practices, and today, just as in Brillat-Savarin’s time, food reveals the deepest facets of one’s being.

This class will explore the relationship between food and identity, specifically focusing on the psychology of taste and how culture shapes our experience of good. Why are some foods acceptable in some cultures and not in others? How have immigrant cultures shaped Southern Californians’ palates? What is the relationship between food, emotion, memory, and pleasure? How do cultural diversity and geography shape the way that groups of people relate to one another? Through a series of trips to restaurants, food production facilities, and markets in the greater Los Angeles area, we will examine how food helps to define communities and an individual’s sense of self.

Carolyn Purnell, Teddy Varno and William Perkins Tift