WR121: Our Food Project

Andrea Nunes & Daniel Sanjur

Andrea Nunes & Daniel Sanjur

On a cold night in February, a group of Dr. Tamera Marko’s Research Writing 121 students gathered in her home to share a meal.

Marko’s course, Power: Food, Music, and Re-Inventing Our University: Writing the Americas in Spanish and English, prompts students to use food to better understand and communicate the history, power relations, and identities embodied in the dishes they cook. Student simultaneously learn about the traditions and rituals associated with their recipe.

Paul Almeida lines a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Paul Almeida

Students began the assignment by researching a Latin American or Latina/o meal and the cultural rituals and historical meanings behind it. This research included how these meals and their rituals and histories challenge or sustain power relations and various forms of individual and community agency. Students explored how their chosen recipe related to anti-immigration laws, language rights, women’s rights, and food security. They then researched and visited local markets that stock the ingredients their recipe requires.

The experience culminates in groups of students cooking and eating together. This method allows the students to connect with the culture and identify with the nationality of the recipe they must research. Next, students synthesize their experience, academic sources, and public writing research to produce work that reflects on their experience, answering the question: “How can food be read as a text to understand Latin America and Latina/o history, identities, and power relations in America?”

Frankie Olito & Andrea Nunes

Frankie Olito & Andrea Nunes

Marko’s 37 students, working in research revision teams, have produced texts in more than 15 different genres: slam poetry, historical cookbook, memoir, literary analysis, documentary film, political letter, magazine article, blog post, critical photo essay, historiographic postcard, annotated bibliography, investigative journalism, ethnography, and more.

Marko has been developing this assignment over ten years while teaching at the University of California at San Diego, Duke University, and now at Emerson College. This is the first time she is implementing the assignment with a bilingual class.

Marko Dinner Flickr Album Cover Image

WR121 – Power: Food, Music, and Re-Inventing Our University: Writing the Americas in Spanish and English is offered by Dr. Tamera Marko through the First Year Writing Program in the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing.

The Trouble With Fathers: Autoethnography And Salteñas. An Analysis.

Emerson College First Year Student

Angelika Romero & Abagael J. McCauley prepare tomatoes.

Angelika Romero & Abagael J. McCauley

Recent research suggests that the underlying meaning of food relates to life. The food we consume is a gateway to one’s knowledge of what we know and what we want to know.

Food is life. We cook and we eat with the knowledge of our past and curiosity of our future. We search new recipes to build a life of new beginnings when we continue to eat away our past.

Food is our memory. We collect pieces of our past as we take a bite out of something that associated itself with a long-­‐lost person: our last love, past relatives, lost causes of our heart that can’t be brought back. Some say we eat with our eyes.
Read More – PDF


Pablo Calderon, Evgenia Larsinou & Victoria Soto prepare their dishes.

Pablo Calderon, Evgenia Larsinou & Victoria Soto

by Allison Trujillo ’15

Tweet number one of the night says, “Where can you buy butter at midnight?
Hashtag: Real Questions”
Tweet number two of the night says, “Why doesn’t CVS sell butter?
Hashtag: Real Questions”
Tweet number three: “I am opening a store called “Truj” and the tagline will be “Like CVS, except with butter””
Read More – PDF

Food as a Catalyst for Social Interaction:
How One Meal Changed My Life

Asta Tall, Pauline Hevia, Katie Teed, Xavier Corpening & Paul Lazo

Asta Tall, Pauline Hevia, Katie Teed, Xavier Corpening & Paul Lazo

by Abagael J. McCauley ’15

Class hadn’t even started yet when I realized I was the odd one out. We were sitting in a circle and everyone had turned to each other, talking in Spanish like old friends.
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Our Meal Was A Text

Catalina Gaitan

Catalina Gaitan

This assignment was the hardest one I have every done in my life. At first, I thought it was going to be so easy. How hard can it be to go to a store and buy some food and then cook it? Answer: life changingly hard. First, I started to notice that food is everywhere and I have access to so much of it. I noticed who is preparing my food in the dining hall, people without food asking for help on the streets by Boston Common, and that in the Latino market where we went, how much people knew about their food, where it came from, how to prepare it.  And the joy and pride they had in teaching that to us. Cooking was like being on another planet. Suddenly, we were all working together, calling our grandmothers all over the Americas, and we had to apply our research in a real-world way in Tamera’s kitchen. Our teachers were books and classroom lectures and student peer reviews and our grandmothers and onion sellers. When we sat down to eat, I felt like we were not just eating, we were doing what the syllabus says: synthesizing knowledge and formulating questions. We were eating Latin American history. We were research writing with all five senses. Our meal was a text.
—  first year research writing student

Cooking in the Classroom With The Not So “Ideal” Latina Woman

Daniel Sanjur, Ryan Catalani & Dr. Tamera Marko

Daniel Sanjur, Ryan Catalani & Dr. Tamera Marko

By Cynthia Ayala ’15

Hello there avid readers! I bet you’re all glad to hear from me once again. Let’s Humor me and say yes shall we?
Read More




Photo Credits: Ryan Catalani

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