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May 22, 2007 09:29 PM

Argumentative food writing for a college course

I am putting together my materials for a freshman level writing course that I'm teaching in the fall and I decided that I wanted to use food writing as the reading material. I would really love to get recomendations for food oriented writing that isn't simply well written, but also would provide my students with compelling arguments about various food related topics. Factory farms vs. local producers, globalization of food culture and brands, food traditions and holidays and their greater meaning, ect.

I'm most interested in specific chapters, articles, essays and exerpts that you feel would generate the most discussion and provide effective fodder for analysis. Obviously this has a more selfish side to it as well; I'm really interested in what I might have been missing lately.

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  1. Though you're probably already familiar with him, certainly Michael Pollan fits the bill. "The Omnivore's Dilemma" is excellent and he's had some very interesting pieces in the NYTimes in the last year or two. If you're not familiar with him, I'd elaborate. You could also google him, or check Amazon for reviews.

    Joel Salatin's writings, and his farming theories and practice might also be thought provoking and worthwhile:

    Of course, there's also "Fast Food Nation", a great topical polemic.

    1. Search Chowhound on those topics.

      One of the few times I'd recommend it ... but eGullet also gets heavily into those topics.

      I know you are looking for professional books but forum boards provide a lot of that info often with links to additional reading material. Also taking a look at non pro writing that appears on food forums might be a good discussion point about what makes for pro writing.

      1. I, too, teach undergraduate-level, lower-division courses in argumentation, although I teach them in Communication Studies.

        In the past I've used _Fast Food Nation_ as a useful example showing "typical" policy case construction (arguments showing harms in the status quo, cause of the harms, plan to solve the problem, and arguments that prove solvency as well as advantages and disadvantages).

        I've used the book more as an example, however, rather than a work to analyze because I didn't want to take too much class time reading the whole book (my use of the book is more about the overall structure of the chapters into a whole argument, rather than analyzing individual arguments within each chapter). However, I think that individual chapters would be appropriate fodder for analysis and evaluation.

        The book as a whole is almost all harms and inherency argumentation; there's less in the way of solutions (and arguments proving the workability and feasibility of those solutions) until the last chapters. So most of the chapters would probably be good examples of arguments asserting that a harm exists in the status quo--and how those harms are illustrated, supported, explained, and made compelling to the reading audience.

        I'll be curious to watch other responses to this thread. Every semester I give my students a list of possible topics to research and debate about, and I always make sure they can choose from one or two food-related topics on the list (e.g., agriculture & food production, food processing & manufacturing, food marketing, and/or food consumption).

        1 Reply
        1. re: alanstotle

          I like George Ritzer's book better--plus, it pre-dates fast food nation by some time.

        2. Steingarten's archives in Men's Vogue has some great pieces. The article on the ethics of foie gras is particularly thought provoking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            I was also going to suggest Steingarten; a lot of his pieces are compiled in "It Must Have Been Something I Ate." He writes very well. His work is lucid and very well argued (he's a former lawyer).

          2. Check out two books by Greg Pence

            Is this for a course at UVA, by chance?