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History of cooking



Coordinator: prof. dr. Herman Spaink (Institute for Biology)

This course is part of a 30-ECTS elective program on the science of cooking, where most of the program is focused on the natural sciences. To offer the (STEM) students a broad view on scientific questions related to cooking, we aim to offer this introductory, highly interdisciplinary course with contributions from scientists all across Leiden University.

In this course, the origin and history of cooking will be covered. Students will learn how historical events changed cooking behavior, and, vice versa, how food habits were influenced by historical developments. Examples include the mastery of fire, introduction of agriculture and farming, human migration, and the development of various food processing techniques for food preservation and nutritional improvement. Students will learn how botanical and archeological research, and the study of historical sources is applied to get insight in the history of cooking. An important aspect is the history of (traditional and tropical) ingredients.

The course is divided in four themes:
1. History and archaeology of cooking
Key questions: Why do we cook our food (food preservation, digestion, …)? When did we start processing our food? How can you do historical and archaeological research into food and cooking (scientific questions and methods/tools)?
2. Ingredients and cooking Key question: What do/did people eat?
3. Food and migration Key question: How did food and migration affect each other?
4. Cuisine and culture
Key questions: What is the cultural meaning of cuisine? How are food, national history and national identity related? How does a national cuisine form and evolve? In which respects do culture and functionality of food preparation technologies (as mentioned above) go hand in hand?

Learning goals

Learning Objectives:

  • Students can indicate the relationship between the way of living, the environment and food.

  • Students can explain the importance of fire (food processing).

  • Students can explain how research in eating habits and food throughout history is performed.

  • Students can recognize common (tropical) food ingredients and describe their properties.

  • Students can explain how historical events (incl. migration) change food culture

  • Students can explain how national cuisines form and evolve

Final Qualifications:

  • Students know and understand the scientific foundations (theories, methods, techniques) of cooking history and can read and understand scientific publications in the field.

  • Students can relate the various scientific disciplines and use an interdisciplinary approach to analyze a problem.

  • Students have knowledge on the ingredients and techniques covered in this course.

Period: September – October
Or: February - March

Mode of instruction
Lectures, practicals, literature study

Assessment method
Students write an essay (subject suggested by teachers). Students are required to write a summary of selected scientific articles.

Blackboard will be used for communication and exchange of documents

Reading list
Course materials will be provided by the teachers.

This course is part of the programme Science of Cooking, a student is required to follow all course included in this programme.
To register for this programme send an email with cv and motivation letter via Deadline for registration is 15th of June 2018.