ENG 4993: Taco Literacy: Writing Transnational Mexican Foodways
4993, CRN 15076 / Spring 2020
M/Th 10:40 am-12:05 pm, Classroom: SJH B43
Steven Alvarez, PhD
Office Hours: M 12:30 pm-2:30 pm, Th 9:30 am-10:30 am, or by appointment
In recent years, there has been a steady increase of interest in the transnational migrations of Mexican food popularized by bloggers, television food shows, and travel journalists. In addition to the immense number of reviews, trade publications, and cookbooks, important social justice issues in regard to multilingualism, global trade, genetically modified foods, cultural appropriation, and migrant labor have also become topical. This course will examine Mexican foodways, focusing on the humanizing connections that link different literacies, rhetorics, and forms of cultural knowledge across borders. Readings will include Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America by Gustavo Arellano, Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico by Alyshia Gálvez, and American Tacos: A History and Guide by José R. Ralat. For more about the class see @tacoliteracy on Twitter and Instagram.
- Students will contextualize global perspectives of Mexican foodways to local, New York City varieties of Mexican foodways.
- Students will write about personal connections to Mexican foodways and articulate their sense of what Mexican food means culturally as part of American and global cuisine.
- Students will edit writing and reflect on their writing process.
- Students will revise a body of informal writing into larger researched projects.
- Students will formulate definitions of foodways from different sources.
- Students will maintain WordPress and Instagram digital platforms to publish fieldwork and research.
Title: Eating NAFTA
Author: Alyshia Gálvez
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; First edition (September 18, 2018)
- ISBN-10: 0520291816
- ISBN-13: 978-0520291812
Title: Planet Taco
Author: Jeffrey Pilcher
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (March 1, 2017)
- ISBN-10: 0190655771
- ISBN-13: 978-0190655778
Title: Taco USA
Author: Gustavo Arellano
- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 16, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 1439148627
- ISBN-13: 978-1439148624
Title: American Tacos
Author: José R. Ralat
- Hardcover: 264 pages
- Publisher: University of Texas Press (April 15, 2020)
- ISBN-10: 1477316523
- ISBN-13: 978-1477316528
Tardiness, Attendance, Participation, and Late Work Policies
TARDIES: We meet at 10:40 am—not 10:50, not 11:00, and certainly not 11:30. I do not tolerate tardiness, and I find it disrespectful. If you have problems with the time commitment for this course, I suggest finding another section that better suits your schedule. Excessive tardiness will be noted and will affect your final grade.
ATTENDANCE: Attendance is mandatory. Class discussion depends on the entire class being present. Because this course meets two times a week, you are allowed three unexcused absences throughout the course. After that, your final grade will drop by one letter grade for each additional absence. Prolonged absences due to illness or absences due to having to attend a university-sponsored event (athletics, theater, music, field trip) will be excused if you provide me with proper documentation from an appropriate authority. You are responsible for all work due for any missed class as well as for the readings and work for the following class. You are also responsible for any work covered during the class you missed.
PARTICIPATION: Students must participate actively in class. This is not a lecture course; it is a hands-on course where participation and interaction are required for learning and success. Participation means doing the reading and being a part of class (not checking email, texting, playing games, doing homework for other classes). Be aware that grades for participation are not only based on how much you talk in class but also how respectful you are to your classmates, to me, and to your work.
LATE WORK: The assignments in this class build upon one another and culminate in your final research assignment. It is necessary for you, then, to complete each assignment before the next begins. Late or skipped assignments will seriously hinder this process. I RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO ACCEPT ASSIGNMENTS PUBLISHED LATE. That’s in bold and caps so you get my emphasis, de veras. If you feel that you will not be able to make a deadline, or if you must miss class on the day the assignment is due, you must contact me in advance so we can work something out. If your assignment is not published by the time I get to where I ask you to publish it online, I will skip you in the grading and you will receive no points.
The research project is a term long, and it will be completed in stages—assignments 1-4 and published as a WordPress website. Your assignments will focus on issues discussed in class, or your reflections responding to readings/documentaries/writing from the course. Four major assignments will form the core of your study. You can use your Instagram posts/images/videos to compose these assignments, but you must edit the pieces.
Your assignments will be published on a site that will become an extended single text archived online. The revised larger project will develop with the additional information and insights you gain through your fieldwork as you become more familiar with Mexican food, literacies, and local issues. With a research assignment like this, you will be free to add information and observations gained over time instead of feeling that earlier assumptions and conclusions are set in stone. Use the readings in class and your instincts to guide your topic choice and how you connect all four assignments.
You will depend on your classmates, tutors in the Writing Center, and me as readers who will help you make decisions about how to present material and how best to interest your audience, but ultimately you will be the expert on your particular study of your chosen topic. You can spend a lot of time developing and revising, working on certain aspects of your writing, and all of this effort and expertise will be reflected in your final project and your grade. That means that your attention to revision and your awareness of your own work habits, strengths, and weaknesses will become a very important element of your writing process. Your final course grade will be based primarily on your participation, active blogging, and your community engagement.
In Assignment 1 you will write a researched restaurant review, a photo-essay reviewing a local Mexican restaurant, following a particular dish you have researched. Your piece must tell a story and capture aspects of taste and emotion connected to history and criticism. Your photos should also tell a story that gives voice to flavors. You must also include five translations of words from Spanish, and describe the roots of words, making note of indigenous loanwords. The text should include 6-8 photographs embedded within the body of the blog page, as well as captions. The text must be 1,200 words and include correct MLA works cited and hyperlinked sources.
As a sample of this work, see the review by Pete Wells of Birria-Landia in Queens:
Also, another review by Pete Wells, of Casa Enrique in Queens:
In Assignment 2 you will engage with food politics by researching the production of ingredients in a second dish, as well as the history of this dish. You are to research into variances, local varieties, and the movement of the dish to different locations across Mexico and the United States. In addition, you must also research the production of ingredients and preparation of the dish. Your text must include 10 photographs/images that depict the dish as well as preparation and migration maps. The text must be 1,500 words and include correct MLA works cited and hyperlinked sources.
Two samples for this are found here, “Peking Duck: From Head to Toe” by Iris Wang and “Baozi Across Seas” by Zhara Choudhury.
In Assignment 3 you will conduct a literature review of a topic related to your research interests. You will research 6 articles related to your interests and include reviews for each article you uncover. For each article, you must summarize key points or ideas that connect to your previous two assignments. You will be evaluated on the quality of your sources as well as how you engage with them. For each source, you must include quotes with which you practice close-reading analysis of both culinary research methods and key findings. The text must be 2,000 words and include correct MLA works cited and hyperlinked sources.
Two samples are “Food in Translation” by Catherine Hartel and “Culinary Tourism in Mexico” by Soannie Maldonado.
In Assignment 4, Part 1, you will explore local foodways through community voices by conducting team interviews with a classmate. Your classmate and you will interview an individual with connections to Mexican food and culture, you will conduct an interview, and you will use the interview to compose a written profile. Your profile must quote directly from the interview, while also engaging the sources from your literature review and two quotes from either or both Taco USA and Planet Taco. Your portrait should focus on your interviewee’s lived experience connected to culture, history, geography, and migration. You must also include 4 photographs from the interview and 4 relevant videos or maps that connect to what you uncover. You must also include a short slideshow (published on YouTube) that represents part of the interview, so you must have a high quality audio record of the interview. The published text must be 2,000 words and include correct MLA works cited and hyperlinked sources, published on both partners’ blogs. You must also provide me the signed interview release form distributed in class.
A sample of this project is “Migrating Mexican Food: An Interview with Ruth Farias” by Richey Reeves and Soannie Maldonado https://littleaburrido.wordpress.com/4-a-talk-with-ruth/
Separately, for Assignment 4, Part 2, you will each write a reflection about for the class, which reviews your previous research and fieldwork. This reflection will be your final writing for the class, and a kind of capstone writing for your semester-long portfolio where you offer insight into each assignment and where your research has travelled up to this point, as well as potential directions for future research. You must include 5 photographs/images from your semester-long research that best encapsulate themes you present in your reflection. This text will be 250 words and include correct MLA works cited and hyperlinked sources. Included in this assignment, you are to finalize the visual preferences for your WordPress site, including (1) updating your header image and background colors and personalizing your website title, (2) updating your “About” page to include your contact information as well as your Instagram username, 3) updating the sequential order of blog pages, and 3) creating a single references page where you will house all the sources from your previous assignments.
Assignment Due Dates
Assignment 1: 2/13
Assignment 2: 3/12
Assignment 3: 4/16
Assignment 4: 5/13
*All assignments will be published as pages on your website.
Instagram and WordPress Posts
You will compose 60 Instagram and 24 WordPress posts for the semester, broken up into four sets. These posts will generate material for you to use for your formal assignments, as well as serve as a space for you to experiment with archiving your research. The dates for the four sets of posts are listed below.
*Each WP post must be at least 150 words to count as a full post.
*Each IG post must be at least 5 sentences to count as a full post.
IG and WP Posts Set 1: 2/6
IG and WP Posts Set 2: 2/27
IG and WP Posts Set 3: 4/6
IG and WP Posts Set 4: 4/30
Evaluation / Grading
The grading for the course will break down as follows:
IG Posts: 15 POINTS
(60 x 0.25 points each)
WordPress Posts: 12 POINTS
(24 x 0.5 points each)
Compositions: 60 POINTS
Assignment 1 8 POINTS
Assignment 2 10 POINTS
Assignment 3 12 POINTS
Assignment 4, Pt 1 18 POINTS
Assignment 4, Pt 2 12 POINTS
Participation 13 POINTS
Total 100 POINTS
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