In what was certainly the most delicious CLASS Seminar ever, Professor Sue Trout of Belmont’s English Department presented a talk on foodways–then fed everyone in the room!
As none of the scholars were familiar with the term, Professor Trout explained that foodways are the cultural, social, and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food. Foodways most often refers to the intersection of food in culture, traditions, and history. Studying foodways combines a number of disciplines: anthropology, science, social science, psychology, folkore and literature, and it is a hot topic now in academic circles.
Professor Trout then asked the scholars to write down one food memory. As the scholars shared these memories, Professor Trout pointed out how often they are associated with family, traditions, celebrations, or other important moments in the development of a self. She asked the scholars to consider what role food plays as it connects to place, to a sense of home and belonging, and by extension to marginalization and alienation.
She then traced her own food story from a picture of her eating a plate of spaghetti at the age of three. This special treat of having prepared what she wanted on her birthday was a family tradition and a once per year departure from being compelled to eat whatever was served to the entire family. So the memory was special and happy, but also fraught with all the tensions and anxieties brought to the table of someone who grew up rural and poor.
She then related several food encounters that shaped how she and subsequently her children have experienced food, from being served North Carolina-style barbecue as a child to making communal meals at college. She described being ashamed of the food she had eaten as a child until working her way back to it in adulthood. She wanted her children to associate food with love and civility and generosity and a welcoming table, to observe rituals and to be closer as a family in part because of it. And so their food associations were created in a very different way from her own.
After the talk, the scholars chowed down on barbecue, macaroni, and other food prepared by Professor Trout and discussed food, memories, family, and culture.