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Learning about America and the World from McDonald’s

Seminar Leader:
Bryant Simon


The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss once remarked, “Food is good to think with.” That is exactly what we did in this course, thinking with food. What can the study of food tell us about what people care about and desire, about production and consumption, eating and bodies, labor and buying, ritual and meaning, and globalization and local change? To get at these issues and many others, we looked at an enduring, troubling, and almost universally recognized icon and symbol of America and American power – McDonald’s. What can be learned about the changes and continuities in American life and habits since World War II by studying McDonald’s? What can a Big Mac, a large order of fries, and a tall cup of Coke tell us about US domestic life and the power of the United States in the post-World War II era? What can we learn from what we eat and what we don’t eat? What can McDonald’s tell us about work and the economy, about culture, and about global power? In a larger sense, how is studying food a good model for interdisciplinary thinking and scholarship in general? To answer these questions, we read texts from reporters, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists and we engaged in our own ethnographic projects.

Unit TitleAuthor


La Comida y la Cultura

Sean Carr
Keywords: Culture, Food, Mexico, Peri, Spanish

The Globalization of Tastebuds and Capitalism

Amanda Fiegel
Keywords: capitalism, cultural convergence, fast food, globalization, imperialism, McDonalds

Why Do You Eat That? An Inquiry of Food Choices and Values Amongst 4th Grade Students

Sondra W. Gonzalez
Keywords: diet, health crisis, health epidemic, healthy eating, proper eating

Taking control of our happiness

Regina Hastings
Keywords: anxiety, depression, happiness, mental health, philosophy

Food As Fuel Introducing Healthy Eating in The K-2 Autistic Classroom

Dorothy Martin
Keywords: autism, Food, nutrition, Pecs

On the Table: An Exploration of Culture, Class, and Stereotypes through Food

Alison R. Marzuoli
Keywords: class, Culture, fast food, Food, McDonalds, stereotypes

The Struggle: Work, Poverty, & What We Can Do

Charlie McGeehan
Keywords: activism, fast food, poverty, struggle

The Art of the Ad: A Critical Investigation of Persuasive Tactics

Alima McKnight
Keywords: advertising, confidence, Critical thinking, English language learners, ESOL, opinion writing, persuasive writing, Self-Regulated Learning (SRL), special education, SpEd, theme

Rich or King “Founding” Fathers or Mothers’ Mythology

Samuel A. Reed, III
Keywords: American History, founding fathers, Humanities, king, mythology

Hablando con McDonald’s and the Papi Store

: Sharon Sampson
Keywords: ¡Buenos días!, bodega, Foreign Language, greetings, McDonalds, Papi Store, señor, señora, señorita, Spanish, video

More than Taking an Order: The Importance of Skill Development in Employment through the Lens of the Fast Food Industry for Students in a Life Skills Setting

Erin Smith Feerick
Keywords: employment, fast food, life skills, McDonalds, skill development, special education