The course: Do You Want Fries With That? A History
of Food and Eating in America. An exploration of
anthropological perspectives on food consumption in
contemporary America. Undergraduate course, limited to 25
students. 3 credits. Department of Anthropology,
cross-listed with Public Health Studies, Krieger School of
Arts and Sciences.
Meeting time: Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m., spring
The instructor: Felicity S. Northcott, senior
lecturer in anthropology; associate director, Institute for
Global Studies in Culture, Power and History. Recognized in
2002 with an Excellence in Teaching Award from the Johns
Hopkins Alumni Association.
Teaching assistant: Holly Martin of Houghton, Mich.
Martin is a senior majoring in international studies.
Syllabus: Students are involved in ongoing field
projects such as surveying the buying and eating habits of
customers at grocery stores in two Baltimore neighborhoods.
Pairs of student presenters lead the discussion each week
based on the assigned readings. Topics include how public
transportation affects eating habits and access to fresh
foods, how to address the illusion that fast food is
cheaper than home cooking and how powerful nations exploit
developing countries for their natural resources.
Not surprisingly, plenty of food made its way into a
recent meeting of the class. The first pair of presenters
stepped up to the plate by circulating two dozen Krispy
Kreme doughnuts at the start of class. Yogurt, muffins,
cold noodle salad and Snackwell's cookies were also noshed
during the session. The final class, on Wednesday, April
28, will be marked with an All-Soy Barbecue in the campus's
Course work: Requirements include a 10-page research
paper on the student's favorite processed comfort food,
uncovering the origins of its ingredients as well as how
it's made and marketed; a food diary filled with everything
the student consumed during a five-day period; and an
eating history questionnaire to be given to a friend or
relative over 60. During spring break, students will
conduct a soy food inventory at a grocery store in their
Required reading: Sweetness and Power: The Place
of Sugar in Modern History, by Johns Hopkins professor
emeritus and renowned food scholar Sidney Mintz, who has
visited the class; Food Politics: How the Food Industry
Influences Nutrition and Health, by Marion Nestle;
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the
World, by Greg Crister; Food Nations: Selling Taste
in Consumer Societies (Hagley Perspectives on Business
and Culture), by Warren James Belasco and Philip Scranton;
Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser; The
Jungle, by Upton Sinclair; The Penguin Atlas of
Food: Who Eats What, Where and Why, by Erik Millstone
and Tim Lang; and other assorted readings.
Overheard in class: "This course is about the
politics of food — it starts somewhere and ends up on
your table, but who are the people in between?"
Students say: "The food policies of the United
States and abroad have a distinct geopolitical impact and
are crucial to the understanding of our world as we know
it. Many decisions and policies are constructed on the
basis of how certain food industries will be impacted. Dr.
Northcott's course analyzes what we consume, why we
consume it and how we have been influenced to eat."
— Grapevine, Texas, resident Anand Veeravagu, a
junior majoring in biomedical engineering.
"In addition to the subject matter, I was actually
drawn to the class because of Dr. Northcott. ... I really
enjoy her frankness, willingness to listen to students and
her passionate but humble style of teaching. She really
encourages people to think for themselves and to discuss
the issues at hand. Assuming your mind is not closed to
thinking about things in new ways, the way you think about
things will be changed after spending a semester in one of
— David Stout, who says he is reducing his meat
consumption based on what he is learning in class about the
effort and money that goes into its production.