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K-State Today

December 4, 2014



K-State instructor to present at 2015 Conference of the American Association of Italian Studies

By Christopher Renner

Christopher E. Renner, K-State instructor of Italian, will chair a panel exploring the relationship between food studies and Italian studies at the 2015 American Association of Italian Studies Conference at the University of Colorado, Boulder, March 26-29.

Food plays a central role in the Italian culture and identity. The development of food studies is due in large part to the contributions of Carlo Petrini, Massimo Montanari, Michael Pollan and others in critically examining food and its contexts within science, art, history and the society as a whole.

Food studies provides an interdisciplinary approach that brings together context and content in order to find answers to questions such as: What impact does food have on the environment? What are the ethics of eating? How are foods symbolic markers of identity and how do those markers change over time? How does food contribute to systems of oppression especially in western consumeristic cultures?

Renner will showcase his course, ITAL 520, The History and Culture of Food in Italy, which explores not only the historical development of the Italian diet from the late Middle Ages to the present day but also explores two of the premier Italian cookbooks: "La scienza in cucina e l'arte di mangiare bene," or "The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well," by Pellegrino Artrusi that was first published in 1891 and has gone through 15 editions; and "Il cucchiaio d’argento," or "The Silver Spoon, first published in 1950 and now in its eighth edition, by the design and architecture magazine Domus that set the stage for the post-World War II cooking traditions of Italy.

"So much of Italian culture is centered around the table and bringing together family and friends to enjoy nourishment and celebrate life," Renner said. "It was natural for me to want to enable my students to experience this sort of cultural experience that makes learning a language and culture real."

After exploring the historical foundations, which are supplemented by more than 30,000 volume collection of cookbooks at Hale Library, students begin exploring food production and hear from guest lectures on urban farming, the challenges of small family-farms in an age of corporate farming, and contrast the food production models used in the U.S. and Italy. Students also hear from local Italians who provide firsthand experience in producing generations-old family recipes from the various regions in Italy.

"This was an amazing course! It was by far one of my favorites I have taken at K-State. Not only did I learn a lot about the Italian culture, but I also became much more aware of certain topics concerning the production of food. A subject that seems vitally important in our world today," said John Gibbs, a May 2014 K-State graduate in history, who took ITAL 520 in spring 2014.

ITAL 520 is offer in the spring semester and has limited enrollment that is open to junior or seniors or anyone who has taken Italian 1 and 2. The course uses both Italian and English as the language of instruction.

For more information contact Renner at renner@k-state.edu.