“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are,” wrote the French gastronomist Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. This class will focus on recent culinary memoirs and documentary films that explore personal and cultural themes through the lens of food. Selections include new memoirs and travelogues by celebrity chefs, films about trailblazing food journalists and restaurant proprietors, and autobiographical stories about food, childhood, and parent-child relationships. Evoking the sights, smells, and tastes of home kitchens, ethnic restaurants, and holiday tables, these works explore complexities of immigration and identity, family connections, urban life, race, ethnicity, class, and the place of food and eating in the pursuit of health and well-being. This mouthwatering journey will take you across America from L.A. to New York, to Nigeria, Italy, Japan, and back again.
Note: students will need to view both films on their own prior to class discussion; films are available on DVD at libraries or via various internet streaming services. Before the first class, please read Buttermilk Graffiti (2018) by Edward Lee, and view the documentary film City of Gold (2015), directed by Laura Gabbert, about the life and work of L.A. food writer Jonathan Gold. Additional books for discussion include: My American Dream (2018) by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Notes from a Young Black Chef (2019) by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein, and Crave: A Memoir of Food and Longing (2018) by Christine S. O’Brien. Several short essays by other writers will be distributed to class participants. We will also discuss the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012), directed by David Gelb.