Dr. Adeline Soldin, French and Francophone Studies

Food, France, and Cultural Identity

I joined the Valley & Ridge Study Group to facilitate the creation a new French course on French food culture and identity. Questions pertaining to sustainability and development relate in so many ways to culinary practices and food systems and I therefore sought guidance about how to conceptualize and integrate these issues best into my class. Participation in Valley & Ridge provided both theoretical tools for designing the class as well as numerous ideas for specific activities and assignments. Namely, the program’s focus on place-based, service, and experiential learning methods exposed me to the abundant resources and instructional opportunities in the region.  Moreover, our discussions inspired me to expand my notion of sustainability to include topics relating to cultural sustainability its relation to national identity. Ultimately, students will be asked to reflect on the development and sustainability of food traditions, values, systems, and resources in France and at home.

Specifically, students in this class study France’s epicurean and agricultural past and present to understand the complex relationships among gastronomic practices, food and farming industries, and French identity. Moreover, students are asked to reflect on their own culinary customs as well as the agro-business systems of their native countries/regions and the globalized world. To complement our study of French food ways, we will have guest speakers from Carlisle to talk about culinary traditions and challenges facing the region and its citizens. We will also take field trips to Farmers on the Square and the Dickinson Farm to learn more about local agriculture and the sustainable measures our own university is taking to reduce its carbon footprint. Throughout the course, students work towards a final research project that analyzes a food-related matter in France and at home to compare and contrast diverse responses and approaches to a common, yet locally distinct problem.