Ideas for Unassessed Essays
The following topics are suggestions only. You are welcome to use a title of your own invention provided you clear it with me first.
Locate one or more cookbooks of Latin American recipes and analyse them in light of Arjun Appadurai’s ideas about how cookbooks help create national identity.
Contrast the depiction of pre-Columbian food in Sophie Coe’s books with the depiction of peasant diet in Camporesi’s works. Do these writers take a similar approach to studying diet?
Discuss the relationship between women and cooking in Rosario Castellanos, ‘The Cooking Lesson’, and Laura Esquivel, Like Water For Chocolate.
To what extent does Like Water for Chocolate illustrate Jeffrey Pilcher’s claims about the development of culinary nationalism in twentieth-century Mexico?
Analyse the importance of maize to the Maya and/or Aztec Indians in terms of both diet and religion.
Discuss the relationship between a maize-based diet and being ‘Indian’.
Discuss the relationship between the price of maize and social unrest in Mexico.
Analyse the ‘tortilla discourse’ (see Pilcher) in late nineteenth-century Mexico.
How has chocolate moved from being an elite beverage to an item of mass consumption?
To what extent is chocolate’s Meso-American origin perceptible in the way chocolate is marketed and sold today?
Discuss the processes by which tropical fruits have become an emblem of Latin America.
What effect has banana production had on Central America?
Compare the reception in Europe of cacao with either maize or potatoes.
What do the names (in English, or other languages) of American foodstuffs reveal to the historian?
Visit a supermarket or greengrocer and determine which items of produce are originally from Latin America. Analyse the process by which one or more of these New World products came to be on sale in a British shop.
Discuss the relationship between meat consumption and racial/ethnic identity in colonial Spanish America.
Discuss the environmental consequences of cattle farming in Latin America.
Discuss the importance of beef production to Argentine history.
Did cannibals ever exist?
What reasons have been given for Aztec cannibalism?
What meanings did Amerindian cannibalism have in Europe?
Has coffee production contributed to or undermined the formation of national governments in Latin America?
Discuss the relationship between coffee production and social unrest in Colombia OR Central America.
Is sugar an erotic substance?
Why has sugar so often been produced using slave labour?
What role did sugar play in the development of European colonies in the Caribbean?
What role has alcohol played in fomenting urban unrest in colonial Spanish America?
Why have Indians so often been condemned as habitual drunkards in Spanish America?
Assess the importance of the Columbian exchange in altering diets in either the old or the new world.
Discuss the role of food in the creation of national identity in Mexico.
How can diet act as a marker of ethnic identity?
Analyse the stories about the origin of mole poblano.