Erin Lambert / History

My Dream Idea is to incorporate experiential learning activities into my introductory seminar in history, “Food in the Early Modern World,” in the Fall 2016 semester. Broadly, the course uses the history of food as an avenue into subjects such as class divisions, religious customs, and the development of globalization between 1500 and 1800. In a previous iteration of the class, it became customary for students to bring snacks to our weekly discussions. In a course devoted to food, they said, it makes sense that we should eat! With the support of the Mead Foundation, students in this year’s seminar will have the chance to experiment with the early modern foods about which we read. I propose a series of dinners that will deepen our discussion of these themes. For each event, students will research early modern ingredients and recipes, and then gather to prepare and eat them, either in facilities on Grounds or in my home. Potential themes include a peasant supper, a noble feast, and a “Columbian Exchange” dinner, which will feature ingredients that only became available to Europeans as a result of Atlantic voyages after 1492. Through hands-on activities, we will gain a richer understanding of significant historical questions. For example, how did global trade change the daily habits of early modern Europeans? How did peasants deal with the problem of famine? Via a class blog, students will document their research, share information on the foods we prepare, and reflect on the experience as a whole. In this way, our activities will contribute to the broader pedagogical goals of the course, which satisfies the College’s second writing requirement. At the end of the course, each student prepares a research project on the history of a food of his or her choice and presents it to the class. After the presentations, we will adjourn to a local restaurant for a celebratory dinner, during which we will reflect on what we have learned over the course of the semester.

While the dinner series will be the highlight of the semester, I also plan to provide catered snacks after class in the interim weeks of the semester, using the day’s discussion theme as inspiration where possible. When we study the coffee trade and the rise of café culture, for example, we will share coffee and pastries. My hope is that these casual conversations will help us to reflect on the influence that early modern institutions such as the coffeehouse continue to have on our own culture. Since I expect that the majority of the students in the class will be first years, these gatherings will also encourage them to make connections with others at UVA and introduce them to some of what Charlottesville has to offer.

The budget is based on 16 participants (15 students plus instructor). For the dinners, I have allowed for the potential purchase of specialized ingredients or tools that may not be available in typical modern kitchens. Actual amounts may be less, depending on the students’ proposed recipes. 

Proposed budget:

Four dinners for 15 students + 1 professor x $25: $1,600

Snacks for seminar meetings $125/week for 10 weeks: $1,250

TOTAL: $2,850