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IST 605: Foodways

What can food tell us about our history, culture, and identity? Welcome to your research guide on Foodways.

Brief Overview and Search Help

          Studying foodways brings students to the busy intersection of agriculture, cooking, customs, history, immigration, family, and change. We can learn a lot about people and places by studying their foods and food customs. This study is especially fruitful in America where regional food customs vary wildly and immigrant communities change the food landscape with their arrival and are changed in turn. Foodways research honors the contributions immigrants make to ‘all-American’ food and recognizes how American cuisine was shaped by the “culinary culture of the enslaved” (Twitty, 2017, p. xvii).

          Foodways research might take a dish or custom and trace its roots to provide proper credit when popular understanding is mistaken or misleading. For example, research clarified that while Thomas Jefferson gets credit for popularizing mac and cheese, credit is more likely due to James Hemings, his enslaved chef (Williams, et. al, 2021). In other cases, such as with the seed conservation organization Native Seed Search, research focuses on learning ways that traditional food customs were forgotten and can be reimagined to promote health, preserve knowledge, and promote sustainability (Native Seed Search, 2023). Lastly, analyzing the human experience through the lense of food provides unique insights into the daily experiences of people living in any given time and place.  

Tips for Searching using the University Library While foodways is a great keyword, watch out for a few things: autocorrect aggressively changes it to footways, not a helpful search term. Additionally, there are medical and nutritional studies about food habits and consumption patterns that aren’t in the scope of our project, which is more social science oriented. If your results capture medical news, add the BOOLEAN operator NOT to exclude medical information: foodways NOT medical for example, or limit your results using the subject limiter. Once you have chosen a narrower topic, use AND to focus your results. For example, if you are studying Jewish food customs and how they changed as Jewish people immigrated to America: foodways AND Jewish will hone your search to works that discuss that. 

How to use the LibGuide: Foodways Defined This tab starts with an overview of foodways from the Library of Congress which also houses innumerable primary source materials in its Folklife collection. Tab also contains additional links to resources that will introduce you to the topic. Helpful Databases Provides links to databases and 2 subject relevant journals that house relevant, scholarly articles on foodways. Foodways Reading Provides links and information on relevant books. While this tab is worth exploring, it might help to narrow your topic before tackling a whole book on a specific foodway. Journal Articles and Resources Articles chosen here demonstrate how foodways provide a cultural lens to study a topic through and discusses theoretical frameworks you can apply to your research. Websites for more information Links here are to interesting websites to continue exploring. References Compilation of the references for this libguide.