University teaching programs


As a scholar and food writer, Dafne teaches food studies programs for many groups of American students from different universities. Check out two popular university programs that Dafne takes part in: Culture and Politics of Food in Italy, a quarterly program for the University of Washington, and Food Culture, for Gustolab International Institute, which is bringing together students from a number of universities.

Hereafter a list is presented of all the possible topics of lectures, divided into two cathegories: Italian Food Cultures and Contemporary Foodscapes. Most lectures can be combined with hands-on labs and field visits to young and successful food businesses, FAO, the Sustainable Food Project of the American Academy in Rome, farmers' markets, urban community gardens, architectural and archaeological sites of interest for the history of food. 


-       Situating the Italian gastronomy in relation to the Mediterranean, north-European and American areas of influence - The Mediterranean roots and the Germanic influences in Italian farming and food culture - The Arabic influences during the middle ages countered by French courts cuisines during the renaissance - How Italians integrated the American produce

-       The customary pillars of Italian “foodscapes” – Production modes and the related staples or dishes: farming, pastoralism, forest husbandry - The relationship between regional production modes, landscapes and “foodscapes” in Italy: the example of wine - The specific taste for regional differentiation: northern versus southern foodways

-       The recent historical influences on contemporary Italian food habits - The search for a common identity after Risorgimento’s unification and the impact of the “Italian Miracle” on farming and eating habits - The changing women’s role in Italian kitchens during the last 3 generations: nonna’s kitchen, the economic boom and the recent revival of home cooking - The new staples brought about by the industrial revolution

-       Reviving the “terroir” - The image of Italian E.V.O.  abroad, DOC and DOP labels for world famous parmesan and wines - Food and local identities: the importance given by Italians to the “taste of place” and to differentiation - The commercial power of “handmade” and “home made” foods in contemporary Italy: mulino bianco marketing strategy versus slow food history

-       Crafted foods and markets in the history of Italian gastronomy - Addressing scarcity in space and time: how Italians created their “typical” delicacies - The historical Italian city-states and the role of cities (capo-luoghi artusiani) in the governance of farming - How bakers, butchers and other handicraftsmen further civilize food inventing new staples - Transparency, democracy, conviviality, and catharsis: the role of marketplaces in Italian cities - Food chains in contemporary metropolitan cities: the example of Rome

-       Food and identity - Food as a means of distinction in terms of regional belonging within Italy and national belonging in the case of emigrants - Food choices as a pattern expressing social classes' relationships (peasant foods, aristocratic foods and bourgeois foods, the marketplace and democracy) – Fasting and feasting: the symbols of Christianity in the Italian food culture and the inheritance from religious calendars - Commensality at home and in public: family meals, community feasts, hostelries, restaurants, street food and fast food

-       Italian food values confronted to globalization - The changes in everyday staples, the Italian consumers’ hardwired values, the conflict between production (consumerism) and re-production (homesteading) in the kitchen - The cuisine model Italian emigrants marketed abroad: a new global identity that Italy partly endorsed - The relationship of Italians to “ethnic” cuisines: food racism, curiosity, migrants, contaminations - Intolerances, fashions, ideologies: vegetarianism, veganism, gluten or lactose intolerances, raw and macrobiotic diets, contextualized


-       Food economy in the global era – development patterns, how diets changed after the green revolution, consumers, the environment, biodiversity, production and productivity, food chains, retailers, power dynamics, food trade, homologation, the role of family farming in the global south.

-       Food policies – the global debate upon farming, FAO policies, the role of the WFP and the World Bank, EU and the role of subsidies, peak oil, climate change, social justice in food production and distribution, free trade agreements and their role in determining the “foodscapes”, the concepts of food security and food soverignty, urbanization and urban farming.

-       Contemporary agroecology – the rise of the organic movement, the counterculture in the 1970’s, the Slow Food movement, the actual difference between green farming, organic farming, biodynamic methodology, synergic  farming and permaculture. Experiences of food sovereignty and agroecology in Italy and in the global south.

-       Food and the city - how food shaped our cities, before and after industrialization; the role of the marketplace in the city (democracy, catharsis, transparency, negotiation); contemporary food supply in the wholesale public markets and private retailers’ hubs. The examples of Paris, Rome and Barcelona.

-       History and geography of food production – locate the main streams in the history of farming techniques, acknowledge the origin of the main food crops – view the global and  European puzzle of how hunting, animal husbandry and farming techniques travelled, defining infrastructures, landscapes, social relations in the pre-industrial world. This approach will have a specific focus on a geographical area or time lapse, upon request.

-       Italian traditional staples – students will discover the backstage, culture and knowledge of the following: pasta, bread and pizza, olive oil, wine, prosciutto and other cured meats, cheese, truffles and other foods from the forest, tomato sauce. This course(s) would involve filed visits to mills, craftsmen, hands-on labs and tastings, for a better understanding. They shall therefore become able to assess the quality of the above.

-       The role of migrations and contaminations in shaping food cultures - locate the main streams in the history of gastronomy, acknowledge the origin of the main staples and cooking techniques – view the global and European puzzle of influences – spices in European history and medieval cuisine.

-       Wheat as a plant of civilization – the roots of the mediterranean civilization – threshing milling and storing: the role of wheat in shaping pre-industrial cities – leavening and baking – bread in the Christian iconography – the modernization of wheat farming and processing, how bread came to replace traditional dishes in the areas of rice, corn, manioc, millet and potatoes – the nutritional changes in wheat-based products, and the gluten-free movement.

-       Ecology, spirituality and food: the relationship to wilderness – different philosophical approaches to the issue of ecology – dietary and farming prescriptions in different religions – food as a relationship to the non-human world – views upon wilderness: evil or blissful? – witches, shamans and cooks – the contemporary quest of “pureness” in our diets

-       Contemporary nutritional dilemmas – from gastronomy to gastro-anomy – the grammars underlying the languages of food cultures – the reductionist definition of nutritional compounds – calories versus nutrients - understanding obesity – the myth of the Mediterranean diet – nutritious value of different foods (foraged, farmed and processed) – the nutritional enhancement of fermented foods