The Department of French and Italian

F C 341 • The Belly Of The Beast

36555 • Skidmore, Melissa
Meets MWF 1:00PM-2:00PM PAR 306
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Days after the series of terrorist attacks in November of 2015, Parisians began a social media

movement using the hashtag #jesuisenterrace to reclaim public space and celebrate French

café culture. Originally a marker for Instagrammed photos and a wave of memes, this trend

grew into a campaign to give Parisian bistros status as one of UNESCO’s intangible world

cultural heritage sites.


More than ever, food culture shapes and is shaped by the political and economic pressures of a global society. This course seeks to examine the history, culture and politics of that world through the exploration of Parisian food culture. We begin with the literal belly of the beast, the original marketplace of Les Halles de Paris, and trace the history of French gastronomy through the city of Paris itself. From the markets to the palaces, for the bourgeois and the immigrant, on the terraces and in the bistros, Parisian food culture draws from the diverse regions of France to form a cosmopolitan world capital that has codified, inspired and instructed the way we teach people cook, eat, shop for and talk about food.


This course encourages students from a wide range of majors to come together to examine,

discuss, work (and eat!) in discovering the complicated relationship between humans and food

in the city that has been an icon of food culture for centuries. There will be an experiential

component to the course in certain course meetings and in student final projects.


Students in this course will explore a number of questions: What does food mean in

Paris? What is the relationship between food and culture? How do the French harness cuisine

as a political, social, and cultural tool? How does food connect France’s past, present, and

future? What are the defining elements of French cuisine? How did certain foods in the French

diet gain cultural and symbolic importance? How does food define the French sense of

belonging and the boundaries between class and ethnic groups? What political and economic

factors affect both urban and rural French food systems? How has migration and globalization

affected French cuisine? What changing factors in French cuisine (ritual, symbolic, cultural,

social) lead to better or worse health?


All readings and discussion will be in English.

  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
    201 W 21st Street STOP B7600
    HRH 2.114A
    Austin, TX 78712-1800