University of Kentucky professor launches course on tacos and cultural significance of Mexican food

No-nonsense lecturer tells student: 'If you have problems with the time commitment for this course, I suggest finding another that better suits your schedule'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Thursday 04 February 2016 17:20
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Mexican food lovers the world over will no doubt be eyeing-up students in the US with envy after news a professor at the University of Kentucky (UK) recently launched an entire college class around tacos. Yes, tacos.

Entitled Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the US South, Professor Steven Alvarez - with the UK’s writing, rhetoric, and digital studies (WRD) department - has outlined how, in recent years, there has been a steady increase in the popularity and interest around Mexican food, having been heavily featured in TV food shows, travel journalism, trade publications, and cookbooks.

Important social justice issues - such as multilingualism, migrant labor, and digital activism - are just some of the issues students will delve into to assess the cultural significance of the food.

The course syllabus adds how the scholars signed up to the course will explore the history and networks of Mexican and Mexican-American food and, over the course of 16 weeks, students will be “writing about recipes, rhetorics of authenticity, local variations to preparation or presentation, and how food literacies situate different spaces, identities, and forms of knowledge.”

Those who think the course will be an easy ride, though, can think again. As with all courses, Professor Alvarez has set out key rules which must be followed in order to avoid expulsion, and has detailed what will be required of students in the areas of tardiness, attendance, participation, and late work policies.

He said: “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.”

With four goals in mind, the no-nonsense academic has said students will begin by writing about their own personal connections to the cuisine, and will be required to engage with the history of a particular dish of their preference.

They will also engage in academic texts - including Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, and Tacopedia by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena. Finally, the class will be required to utilise social media tools and blogs with the aim to have their fieldwork and research published into Mexican restaurants in and around the local area.

Speaking with BuzzFeed News, Professor Alvarez described how the course will actually aim to teach more about “migration foodways and looking at the South through the prism of food.” He added: “The course is on food, but it’s really about the culture around food.”

The academic also highlighted how there has been a recent surge of Mexicans coming into Kentucky to work in the tobacco industry or on horse farms amid reports of the exploitation of such workers within the tobacco industry. He told the site: “It’s changing. The way we talk about this change is painful sometimes. Talking about these things through food is a good place to start.”

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