Taco Literacy on TV, Bourdain in Queens, Foodways and Identity

First day back in class in a week without cameras making things weird. Cameras or not, we’re still going, still learning, and today we welcomed the HSCL taco crew to join us at the big table, and we filled that thing to capacity. We filled the chairs, but that didn’t stop the learning.

Well, more about that in a minute. But in case you missed it, we made the TV airwaves the other day.

Cameras or not, we keep rolling too! Proud of all you for how you are thinking about foodways, and today, I thought it was important to put a couple of things into perspective, to move back a bit from Mexican foodways, and think a bit about this magical place here called Queens.

Queens is the Future, Jackson Heights, Queens .

We began by doing a quick search for the term “foodways.” I realize I had been using this term with students, but not really diving into the definition, and this approach I use to think about food in structuring this course and thinking about literacies. This is the one straight from Wikipedia, and it works to get us thinking about the social practices of foodways.

With this definition, I emphasized the adjectives before “practices”: cultural, social, and economic. I would also add “symbolic” to that list–much in the way that Bourdieu theorizes various forms of exchanges theorized as capital during practices in social fields. Pointing to each of these, I made emphasis as this being a social scientific approach to thinking about food, moving to macro analyses, but also considering micro practices as well. The final part of the definition emphasizing culture, traditions, and history are malleable approaches for doing food studies research, but also considering literacy as another aspect of these practices about foodways.

We also did a little bit of writing. I posed the question, “How does food carry culture for you?” Students did some writing for about five minutes, then we went around the table to share. Listening to the students, I heard aspects of family, culture, assimilation, preservation, forgetting, but also not feeling compelled to assimilate, to be different, but also to think about how food connects us across generations. It was probably one of the most beautiful exchanges I have witnessed among students at different places in their lives, with a world of experiences in their communities. The students always make me proud.

The sharing went on longer than I expected, but I was not going to ask them to cut it short. But their words about foodways also helped to introduce the start of todays class, the late Anthony Bourdain.

We watched an episode of Parts Unknown that focused on the foodways of Queens. This is one of my favorite episodes to show to students at St. John’s, and I was glad to share this one with the SJU and HSCL students, to hear their ideas too. We finished with this clip at Neirs Tavern

We didn’t have a chance to discuss the show, or watch the rest of the episode, so more of that when we get back from Spring Break

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