Food, Identity, and Social Change

In an age when more and more people grow up without regular family meals taken together around a table, when dining out means a visit to the drive-thru and eating in the car, commensality and hospitality are becoming devalued and forgotten. What we eat and how we dine together tells us a great deal about who we are as a society. This course will teach you about a range of food cultures and the high value placed on commensality and hospitality in many of these food cultures. These alimentary choices reflect what people value (in the past and present) about their bodies, the planet, and the community they create when meals are shared with strangers and friends. You will be asked to reflect on the choices society makes and has made over time, as much as the personal choices each one of us makes every day. This Endeavor Community will explore food sites (on campus and in Richmond) and the role that food habits play in our lives as a means to build self-awareness and effect social change.

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  • Coursework Overview

    The coursework for this Endeavor community involves taking a one-unit course in the fall semester and a half-unit course in the spring semester, both taught by Dr. Treonis.

    Fall 2024 Semester Spring 2025 Semester
    FYS 100: Dining Out: A History of Food, Taste, and Hospitality (1 unit) IDST 190: Dining Out: A History of Food, Taste, and Hospitality Seminar (.5 unit)

    FYS 100 satisfies a general education requirement; students are required to take one first-year seminar (FYS) during the first semester at Richmond.

    IDST 190 is a half-unit project based course part of the Endeavor program.


  • Specific Course Information

    FYS 100: Dining Out:  A History of Food, Taste, and Hospitality

    Before restaurants were “invented,” where did travelers find a place to eat? What did “dining out” look like without a chef de cuisine, menu or a waiter? What did diners discover when traveling? How has restaurant culture evolved over time? Where will it go next? This course examines the range of social, cultural, and economic influences that have shaped our gastronomic practices from antiquity to the present. We will be reading the diaries of travelers, the observations of men and women at court, the lives of chefs, the business histories of famous entrepreneurs, and the reviews of restaurateurs. Class readings, writing, and independent research will draw on various methods (historical analysis, participant-observation, and museum and kitchen visits, even some culinary practice!) to address the larger questions of how the many forms of commensality define our social identities and cultural values.

    IDST 190: Dining Out:  A History of Food, Taste, and Hospitality Seminar

    Students will build on what they learned in their fall FYS to create a project or their own research. This may take the form of a service-learning project, collaborative research on the Richmond restaurant scene, or looking at campus initiative related to commensality, food justice, or hospitality-related work.
  • Faculty Information

    Dr. Sydney Watts
     is an Associate Professor of History and Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies.

  • Endeavor Short Course Information

    As part of the Endeavor program, you will participate in the popular Endeavor Pre-Orientation program, where you will take a short course led by Dr. Watts.

    Short Course Description:  Are you a Foodie?

    “Are you a Foodie?” asks students to think about themselves and their relationship with food as a way to understand epicureanism. Is eating a source of comfort or pleasure? What, in your mind, makes a meal? How do anthropologists “decipher a meal?” How do cultural critics measure good taste (a rarefied form of distinction) not just what tastes good (a personal preference)? Is being a foodie elitist or populist?