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The Geography of Food: Exploring Cuisine and Culture

Staff Writer

Published: Friday, November 30, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

In the midst of registering for classes, students are always looking for an interesting course to go along with all of the regular, required ones. Next semester, UNH is offering a very unique class involving geography, and every college student’s favorite subject — food.

Geography 588, also known as Geography of Food, is a class being taught by Blake Gumprecht, associate professor of geography and chairman of the geography department. The class has been offered twice before and Gumprech said he is very excited to have it back on campus again.

Gumprecht said he believes that a class like this will appeal to UNH students for many reasons. He said that not only will it add diversity to the curriculum, but also that it will also be a great way to get students interested in geography. He said that his course shows students a different side of geography, a side that he thinks will appeal to them.

According to Gumprecht one of the great aspects of this class is its small size, with the cutoff being 20 students. Although this class falls under the geography major, most of the students who enroll are from a variety of majors. This class is intended for anyone who is interested in it, and it doesn’t require much previous knowledge of geography.

Gumprecht said he hopes that as students try different foods, they will think of why people around the world eat them. As a way to expose students to the foods, the professor actually prepares meals for his class. “I try to bring in food eight to 10 times a semester. We eat regularly in the class,” he said.

Some examples of these meals include Mexican food, African foods and a spicy chickpea dish from India, among many others. Students are also encouraged to go out and explore many local ethnic restaurants in cities such as Portsmouth, Dover and Boston. “I think the course would lose something if we didn’t bring in food,” Gumprecht said.

Students also get the chance to try their hand at preparing an ethnic dish on their own as part of a class project. They must create the meal and find out all that they can about it, not only geographically, but historically and culturally, as well.

“I hope they become food explorers themselves,” Gumprecht said.

Gumprecht himself has been a food explorer for quite some time. He describes food as a way of learning more about the world and different cultures. While he would much rather eat ethnic foods in their country of origin, he finds ways to enjoy them closer to home by shopping at ethnic grocery stores and eating at ethnic restaurants.

“It’s a way of traveling without having to buy an airline ticket,” he said.

The class focuses on many regions of the world, and not only on how food varies geographically, but also on why it does. Gumprecht said that geography is very multifaceted and that this class will show students that. The food is used to achieve the larger goal of exposing students to geography. That’s not to say that the food isn’t an important part though.

“If I widen their interest of food, I will consider what I do a success,” Gumprecht said.

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