*Forthcoming* “How to Think with Your Mouth: Teaching Critical Eating Literacy through Digital Food Culture.” Part of YOU ARE WHAT YOU POST: FOOD AND INSTAGRAM (Bloomsbury), edited by Emily Contois and Zenia Kish.
“I want to do my paper on activated charcoal. Is it actually good for you, or am I just seeing it everywhere because it looks so good on Instagram?” A visually charismatic health fad, activated charcoal illustrates the frame of reference my students on both coasts have brought to our interdisciplinary classroom discussions of American food culture. What kind of diet is truly healthy? And what kind of diet just looks that way? I discuss how students on both coasts have critically interrogated everything from the neurological effects of food porn to the racial politics of appropriative health trends like matcha–and how to cope with the unattainable body images of IG models and influencers, all through processing food less with their eyes and more with their mouths.
*In preparation* “Aftertaste: Flavorants, feed-forward learning, and a new toxicology.” (co-authored with Hannah Landecker)
MSG has lived many scientific lives. A laboratory agent for creating obese model mice for diabetes research; a neurotransmitter and excitotoxin once associated with lesions and neurodegeneration; and in the 21st century, an agent of post-oral flavor preference learning and potential endocrine disruptor. We trouble accepted models of flavor as an evolutionary feedback mechanism that signals to the body the presence of an associated nutrient. We trace how glutamate is one flavorant which, when divorced from nutriment, can condition feed-forward flavor preferences in mice models, who seek out flavors to which they have been conditioned, regardless of nutritional content. Researchers call this appetition, or molecular mechanisms of flavor-seeking behavior that operate in an inner sensorium – before memory, without bias, and after taste.