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"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are."

-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826)


"What is food to one man may be fierce poison to others."

-Lucretius (99-55 BCE)


"The next time you feel like complaining, remember that your garbage disposal probably eats better than 30 percent of the people in the world."

-Robert Orben



Overview: Food ties us to our environments, of both production and consumption. We all have to eat, and we all have to share our planet’s resources. Food links all major issues of geography into a spatial network influenced by physical geography, culture, society, and economics. Food is intricate to our nutrition and health as well as our agricultural practices. Where and what we eat says a lot about who we are as individuals. Our cultural boundaries are tied to our bodies and ascribe meaning to the spaces that we inhabit. This course focuses on the human body and its spatial practices and processes. We will briefly examine how human practices have affected food production and spatial relationships throughout history. From the first agricultural practices and cultivation of grains through the Columbian exchange, industrialization, and to present-day globalization. We will trace what food means to people and how these social/cultural practices affect space. This course will examine the mouth as a personal boundary that in turn produces social, cultural, and spatial boundaries. What one eats and the way one eats create social expectations that augment the spaces where food is produced, prepared, and consumed. We will examine how the cultural practices of food often augment these processes and reshape food-way systems and the physical designs of space itself (from agricultural plots to kitchen spaces, and informal food markets to restaurant designs.).



Course Focus: The course will primarily focus on the cultural capital of food in post-industrial regions in late capitalism. Or in other words, how food is used to transcend culture for profit in the Global North and how different bodies respond to these processes. We will examine the body’s taste preferences and food performances through class, ethnicity, and gender. Through the body we will then trace how the market system responds to cultural practices, through production, distribution, preparation, and consumption. We will also examine how spatial relationships change food as well as food symbolism. In an era of globalization, symbolic capital and cultural performances are often at odds between divergent community groups. Thus we will examine how the cultural landscape often becomes a site/sight of food contestation, celebration or forges new culinary relationships.


* While some food geography courses may put a more critical focus on physical geography, human population patterns, hunger, health, and/or agricultural practices, this course focuses primarily on the human body, cultural performance, and the cultural landscapes of food. This course works well in tandem with other food geography courses. For a more critical course on urban populations, agricultural practices, and food processes, see my course: “The Geography of Urban Food Systems.”


Lecture 1.              Introductions & Course Overview: Why Study Food? Lecture

Lecture 2.              The Rise of Agriculture.

Lecture 3.              The Columbian Exchange.

Lecture 4.              Physical Geography and Regional/National Cuisine I

Lecture 5.              Physical Geography and Regional/National Cuisine II

Lecture 6.              Physical Geography and Regional/National Cuisine III

Lecture 7.              National Cuisine

Lecture 8.              The Industrialization of Food Processes I. 

Lecture 9.              The Industrialization of Food Processes II. 



Lecture 10.             The Body and Boundaries I (The Mouth)

Lecture 11.             The Body and Boundaries II (The Mind’s Eye)

Lecture 12.             The Body and Boundaries III (Religion)

Lecture 13.             The Body and Boundaries IV (Gender)

Lecture 14.             The Home and Kitchen I. (Social)

Lecture 15.             The Home and Kitchen II (Social)



Lecture 16.             Community (Social)

Lecture 17.             Eating in the City - Food as Cultural Capital I (Class)

Lecture 18.             Eating in the City - Food as Cultural Capital II (Class)

Lecture 19.             Global Food and Food-Ways I: Foodstuff Migration

Lecture 20.             Global Food and Food-Ways II: Recipe Migration

Lecture 21.             Global Food and Food-Ways III: Food and Human Migration

Lecture 22.             Fast Food/ Slow Food I



Lecture 23.             Landscape I: The Street and Plaza

Lecture 24.             Landscape II: Fast Food/ Slow Food and Landscape Morphology.

Lecture 25.             Landscape III: Contestation?

Lecture 26.             Landscape IV: Celebration?

Food is Spatial: The Cultural Geography of Food

© Robert Lemon /

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