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Food Studies: Meet Josh, Part of the Yale Sustainable Food Project

GOOD's next Food Studies blogger is a junior at Yale, where he makes his own vanilla extract in between writing papers on Imperial Roman cookbooks.

Food Studies features the voices of volunteer student bloggers from a variety of different food- and agriculture-related programs at universities around the world.

My name is Josh Evans, and I am a junior Humanities major at Yale. You might be wondering why I am not a "Food Studies" major, or something like it; sometimes I wonder that myself. The reason is that Yale doesn’t offer a formal course of food-related study—yet. But I am managing to incorporate food into my educational experience a few different ways, which I'm looking forward to sharing with you.

Growing up, I always loved food. I worked at a farm and in a restaurant, and I starting getting really into food issues near the end of high school. But joining the Yale Sustainable Food Project has catapulted me into a whole new level of immersion in food culture. My freshman year I started volunteering at the Yale Farm and attending events, and now I work with the Project, coordinating events at the farm, making pizza from scratch in our wood-brick oven, and helping to plan and cook for all sorts of events that we host, from public talks to conferences. Back in October, Carlo Petrini came to Yale to speak, and I helped make lunch for him and his colleagues—it was a pretty cool event. I’m lucky to have such an awesome job, one that is meaningful and fun at the same time.

Though there is not an integrated program of study for food at Yale so far, each year there are more and more food-related classes being offered, and many of them are growing in popularity—a good sign that we may have a program soon enough. One of my classes this semester, "Psychology, Biology, and Politics of Food," is a lecture with more than 300 people. We’re learning all about the interactions between human biology, individuals' genes, agriculture and food policy, and public health issues like nutrition disparity.

Another class that I am really enjoying (and was lucky to get into) is "History of Food and Cuisine." We started off looking at the cuisines of different cultures throughout history, and now we're focusing more closely on the history of food and diet in America, in relation to colonization, the rise of the food industry, and other movements. We've also paid a lot of attention to aesthetic principles, looking at cookbooks and menus from different regions and time periods. I wrote one of my papers on Apicius’ De Re Conquinaria, the oldest surviving cookbook in the world, from Imperial Rome.

It would be strange, I think, to talk so much about studying food and not at all about making and eating it. I love cooking, having dinner parties, going on picnics, and trying out new restaurants. Recently, I started a blog to help me reflect on and document my food adventures through writing and photography. Lately, I've been playing around with homemade vanilla extract, gushing over a recent indulgence in a Rush Creek Reserve cheese, and thinking about questions of heritage production and authenticity that came up in a recent class of my "History of Food and Cuisine" course.

In other news, it's spring break, and I'm touring around Switzerland and Italy with my a cappella group, the Yale Alley Cats, for two weeks—I'm sure I'll have something interesting to share for next time!

To be continued... Josh is a student blogger for the Food Studies feature on GOOD's Food hub. Don't miss the first posts from fellow Food Studies bloggers Claire, Michele, Megan, Leslie, Christine, and Erin.

Photos by the author.

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