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Food and Media

Food and Media
by Emily Contois

Emily Contois is an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Tulsa, USA Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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DOI: 10.5040/9781474208802.0007

  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Identifier:
    b-9781474208802-07
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Introduction

This eight-module unit addresses food and media, considering select media forms—print, film, television, advertising and marketing, and new media—primarily during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States. This unit provides students with the tools to study, interpret, and analyze food media representations, as well as to consider their production and consumption. The unit also includes two more specific case studies; the first addressing food, media, and gender and the second considering celebrity chefs. The eight modules can be taught in any order to suit instructor preference and style and to engage students. The unit includes a dozen assignment options for assessment, and all assigned readings are available through the Bloomsbury Food Library.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:

  1. Define media and food media as part of an introductory knowledge of food studies and media studies.

  2. Understand both the cultural and practical processes of food media production and consumption.

  3. Interpret and critique representations of food across media forms.

  4. Engage with complex concepts, such as power and identity, from the perspectives of food studies and media studies.

  5. Become more critical consumers and creators of food media content.

Unit Outline

This eight-module lesson plan is intended to be spread throughout a full semester. In most cases, more reading is assigned than necessary so that instructors can select the articles, chapters, and books—all of which are available through the Bloomsbury Food Library—that will work best for them and their students. The content is aimed toward upper-level undergraduates or graduate students in courses addressing food studies and media studies.

Assigned readings and discussion questions are included to inspire ideas for classroom discussion. Homework assignments provide opportunities for application, synthesis, and analysis and can be due before or after class meetings, depending upon instructor preference. Instructors can also expand these assignments into longer papers or projects.

Lesson 1

An Introduction to Food and Media

Texts to be read before the lesson

Dickinson, Roger. 2013. “Food and the Media: Production, Representation, and Consumption.” In The Handbook of Food Research, edited by Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco, and Peter Jackson, 439–454. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042261-ch-0026

Gong, Qian. 2015. “Media.” In Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture, edited by Peter Jackson, 130–137. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-039

Parasecoli, Fabio. 2008. “Introduction: Pop Culture Drama Food and Body Politics.” In Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture, 1–14. Oxford: Berg. DOI: 10.5040/9781350044616-intro-001

Rousseau, Signe. 2014. “Food Representations.” In A Cultural History of Food in the Modern Age, edited by Amy Bentley, 183–200. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350044555.ch-009

Discussion questions

  • Define “media.”

  • What theories and concepts have media scholars debated the most?

  • Define “food media.” Why is it so popular now, and why should we study it?

Homework

In your own words, define “media” and “food media.” In another 200–300 words, summarize two or three key issues, debates, or interesting problems scholars have considered when addressing food media. How do these issues, debates, or problems relate to your own experiences and interests in food media?

Lesson 2

Foundations: Food, Media, and Identity

Texts to be read before the lesson

Fakazis, Elizabeth. 2017. “Cool Kids Cook: Girls and Boys in the Foodie Kitchen.” In Food, Masculinities, and Home: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Michelle Szabo and Shelley Koch, 147–165. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262354.0015

Parasecoli, Fabio. 2017. “Kitchen Mishaps: Performances of Masculine Domesticity in American Comedy Films.” In Food, Masculinities, and Home: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Michelle Szabo and Shelley Koch, 197–212. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262354.0018

Cox, Ellen. 2017. “‘Don’t Try This at Home’: Men on TV, Women in the Kitchen.” In Food, Masculinities, and Home: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Michelle Szabo and Shelley Koch, 231–247. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262354.0020

Leer, Jonatan. 2017. “‘If You Want to, You Can Do It!’: Home Cooking and Masculinity Makeover in Le Chef Contre-Attaque.” In Food, Masculinities, and Home: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Michelle Szabo and Shelley Koch, 182–196. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262354.0017

Discussion questions

  • How do various media forms represent the relationship between food, cooking, and categories of identity, in this case, gender?

  • Thinking about “media effects,” how can these media forms reinforce or transform current food and gender views, practices, and norms?

Homework

Select a media text (e.g., an Instagram image, a scene in a film, an episode of a TV show, a TV or online commercial, or a print ad) that interests you. The media text should represent food and a category of identity, such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, or region. In a 500-word response, explain and analyze (or critique) how this media text represents identity.

Lesson 3

Diving In: Food in New Media

Texts to be read before the lesson

Adamoli, Ginevra. 2017. “The Slow Food Movement and Facebook: The Paradox of Advocating Slow Living through Fast Technology.” In Representing Italy through Food, edited by Peter Naccarato, Zachary Nowak, and Elgin K. Eckert, 55–74. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474280440.ch-003

De Solier, Isabelle. 2013. “Blogging: Digital Leisure and Material Media Production.” In Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture, 145–163. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042179.ch-008

Naccarato, Peter and Kathleen LeBesco. 2012. “Democratizing Taste?: Culinary Capital in the Digital Age.” In Culinary Capital, 67–84. Oxford: Berg. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350042131.ch-004

Discussion questions

  • Define “new media.” How is it similar and different from “old media”?

  • What challenges and possibilities exist for new media, particularly when it comes to food?

  • How do you engage with food on social media? For example, do you follow blogs or food accounts on Instagram? Do you create your own content?

Homework

Select a food-based social media account (e.g., a Facebook group, an Instagram account, or a hashtag) or a food blog. Write a 500-word analysis of your chosen new media object using concepts you learned from today’s readings.

Lesson 4

Historical Connections: Cookbooks in Print (and Beyond)

Texts to be read before the lesson

Claflin, Kyri, 2013. “Representations of Food Production and Consumption: Cookbooks as Historical Sources.” In The Handbook of Food Research, edited by Anne Murcott, Warren Belasco, and Peter Jackson, 109–128. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350042261-ch-0006

Watson, Rubie. 2016. “Church Cookbooks: Changing Foodways on the American Prairie.” In The Handbook of Food and Anthropology, edited by Jakob Klein and James L. Watson, 323–343. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474298407.0025

Discussion questions

  • In what ways are cookbooks meaningful historical (and contemporary!) sources?

  • How are cookbooks (in the past and present) part of the broader food media environment?

  • What can cookbooks tell us about food culture, technology, history, identity, society, etc.?

  • Our readings today gave us historical examples of cookbooks and foodways. How do readers today engage with cookbooks, in print and in digital formats?

Homework

Search through the image collection from the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in the Bloomsbury Food Library. Select two or three recipes that interest you. Write a 500-word response that analyzes your recipes using concepts and themes you learned in today’s readings.

Lesson 5

Food on the Big Screen: Film

Texts to be read before the lesson

Naccarato, Peter. 2017. “There’s a Mobster in the Kitchen: Cooking, Eating, and Complications of Gender in The Godfather and Goodfellas.” In Representing Italy through Food, edited by Peter Naccarato, Zachary Nowak, and Elgin K. Eckert, 111–124. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474280440.ch-006

Instructor-chosen selections from:

Miller, Cynthia and A. Bowdoin Van Riper, eds. 2017. What’s Eating You?: Food and Horror on Screen. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781501322402

Discussion questions

  • How does food function within horror films and mobster movies?

  • How do horror films depict and critique food consumption and systems of production?

Homework

Select a scene from any film you like that addresses food or from one of the films referenced in today’s reading. Compose a 500-word analysis of how food functions within the scene using concepts and themes you learned from today’s reading.

Lesson 6

Food on the Small Screen: TV

Texts to be read before the lesson

Rousseau, Signe. 2012. “The Rise and Rise of Food Television.” In Food Media: Celebrity Chefs and the Politics of Everyday Interference, 43–46. Oxford: Berg. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350042193 =

Naccarato, Peter and Kathleen LeBesco. 2012. “Television Cooking Shows: Gender, Class, and the Illusory Promise of Transformation.” In Culinary Capital, 41–66. Oxford: Berg. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350042131.ch-003

Instructor-chosen selections from:

Collins, Kathleen. 2009. Watching What We Eat: The Evolution of Television Cooking Shows. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781501336133

Discussion questions

  • In what ways has food TV changed over the last 50–60 years?

  • Who has been featured on TV as a cook and who hasn’t? What are the politics of inclusion and exclusion within this genre of TV programming?

Homework

Watch an episode of a cooking show on television, online, or through a streaming service. Write a 500-word analysis of the episode using concepts and themes you learned from today’s reading.

Lesson 7

Food All Around: Advertising

Texts to be read before the lesson

Gong, Qian. 2017. “Advertising.” In Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture, edited by Peter Jackson, 12–14. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-006

Wenzer, Jakob. 2017. “Brands.” In Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture, edited by Peter Jackson, 35–38. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-013

Garvin, Diana. 2017. “Producing Consumers: Gendering Italy through Food Advertisements.” In Representing Italy through Food, edited by Peter Naccarato, Zachary Nowak, and Elgin K. Eckert, 141–164. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474280440.ch-008

Valoroso, Antonella. 2017. “‘A Kitchen with a View’: The Modernization of Gender Roles in Italy through Barilla’s 1950s and 1960s Advertising Campaigns.” In Representing Italy through Food, edited by Peter Naccarato, Zachary Nowak, and Elgin K. Eckert, 165–182. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474280440.ch-009

Instructor-chosen selections from:

Lien, Marianne Elisabeth. 1997. Marketing and Modernity: An Ethnography of Marketing Practice. Oxford: Berg. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350044876

Discussion questions

  • Define “advertising.”

  • Define a “brand.”

  • Considering the examples in the Garvin and Valoroso chapters, does food advertising shape or reflect society?

  • When you think of memorable food advertisements (such as TV commercials, print ads, and social media campaigns), which come to mind? What products do they promote? Why do you find these to be memorable (perhaps also effective) examples of food advertising?

Homework

The advertising industry is interested to define and understand the “millennial” and “Gen Z” consumer generations (which might include you!), particularly with regard to food values and purchasing habits. Conduct some online research on how food marketers and popular press have covered these young eater demographics. Then write a 500-word response summarizing your findings. How are your own food views similar or different than those identified by marketing experts?

Lesson 8

Case Study: Media and Celebrity Chefs

Texts to be read before the lesson

Piper, Nick. 2015. “Celebrity Chefs.” In Food Words: Essays in Culinary Culture, edited by Peter Jackson, 40–43. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781350042278-014

Rodney, Alexandra, Josée Johnston, and Phillipa Chong. 2017. “Chefs at Home? Masculinities on Offer in Celebrity Chef Cookbooks.” In Food, Masculinities, and Home: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Michelle Szabo and Shelley Koch, 213–230. London: Bloomsbury Academic. DOI: 10.5040/9781474262354.0019

Jackson, Peter. 2015. “Celebrity Chefs and the Circulation of Food Anxieties.” In Anxious Appetites: Food and Consumer Culture, 126–143. London: Bloomsbury Academic. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781474255240.ch-007

Instructor-chosen selections from:

Rousseau, Signe. 2012. Celebrity Chefs and the Politics of Everyday Interference. Oxford: Berg. http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350042193

Discussion questions

  • Define “celebrity.”

  • What is the role of various food media in the rise and construction of the celebrity chef as a cultural figure?

  • What celebrity chefs can you think of? What are their claims to fame?

Homework

Select a photo or a video of a “celebrity chef.” This chef may be a Food Network TV star, the chef at a Michelin star restaurant, a well-known blogger, or cookbook-author. In 500 words, critically analyze the chef’s visual representation. For example, consider where and how they pose, what they wear, and their facial expression. How does the chef perform (or resist) the normative role of the “celebrity chef”?

Assessment Options

In addition to the homework assignments, additional assessment options might include:

  • An Interview Profile. Interview someone who professionally produces and/or avidly consumes food media. What do they identify as key trends, problems, and opportunities for this expanding field? Compose a two- to four-page essay based on your findings.

  • A Restaurant Review. Visit a restaurant of your choosing, and write a one- to two-page review that also incorporates concepts and themes learned in class.

  • A Mini Exhibit. Create an exhibit of five to seven food media objects of your choosing that align with a particular theme or topic. Write an introductory label of 200–300 words and captions of 100–200 words for each object.

  • A Food Blog or Instagram Account. Throughout the semester, create and maintain your own food blog or Instagram account. Consider your theme and scope, audience, post frequency, engagement, etc. At the end of the term, write a two- to three-page reflection paper on your experience of food blogging.

Further Reading

Johnson, Josée and Shyon Baumann. 2009. Foodies: Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape . London: Routledge.

Parkin, Katherine. 2007. Food Is Love: Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America . Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Rousseau, Signe. 2012. Food and Social Media: You Are What You Tweet . Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.