Georgia College’s new Global Foodways Studies certificate a recipe for success

Georgia College’s new Global Foodways Studies certificate a recipe for success

G ot a hankering for black-eyed peas, deviled eggs with sweet pickle relish or maybe a hot tamale? How about a fried green tomato to go with that grade you’re earning?

Georgia College’s Global Foodways Studies certificate program blends history, culture and tradition with cooking encounters and fieldtrips sprinkled in. Add internships, study away and study abroad to the mix––and the mouthwatering result is a bona fide, multi-disciplinary program that combines facts with fun and fills the tummy.

It’s also the first certificate program of its kind in the state university system.  

People just like food. This is a good way to present material to students that’s a little more ‘stick to your ribs,’ something they can walk away from without forgetting.
– Dr. Craig Pascoe, professor of history

Based on Pascoe’s popular “Southern Foodways and Traditions” course––the new program opens the door to a global fiesta of food. It also gives faculty new ways to teach history, sociology, anthropology and pretty much any subject you can think of, even beer.

Dr. Craig Pascoe
Dr. Craig Pascoe
This fall, an updated cooking kitchen in Chappell Hall is being used for culinary demonstrations and presentations from guest speakers and chefs. New courses explore the history of American and Meso-American cuisine. In the future, classes will also include East Asian and Jewish foods, BBQ pit masters and how race and barbecue shaped the American South. There’ll be courses on Mexican foodways, celebration meals of the Nuevo South and nutrition.

“Food is instilled in the American mind. It stirs public excitement,” Pascoe said. “We’re teaching people about culture, about histories of peoples around the world, and we’re using food to cement that in people’s minds.”

Junior Elijah Lopez
Junior Elijah Lopez
Pascoe's first class served up country ham and biscuits. This fascinated junior history major Elijah Lopez, who’s from Manhattan in New York City. He decided to take two foodways classes this semester, after learning about the certificate program from his advisor.

“She knew I was a Northerner, so I would enjoy seeing a different aspect,” he said.

Lopez had never eaten salty southern ham. In the North, he said people prefer ham sweetened with maple, honey or brown sugar glazes. Instead of eating pork shoulder, rice and beans or oatmeal for breakfast, as his family enjoys, Lopez noticed Southerners like their grits.

“I’m enjoying this class and, of course, we get to eat,” Lopez said. “I never thought of food as bonding people through history. Wings used to be eaten by relatively low-income families, and now they’re revolutionizing the South, and everyone adores them.”

It definitely gets you more engaged. A lot of people get dried out from the boringness of history books. That’s why we have classes like this.
– Elijah Lopez
“I’m learning so much more than what I expected,” he said. “It definitely gets you more engaged. A lot of people get dried out from the boringness of history books. That’s why we have classes like this.”

To get a certificate, students take Global Foodways Studies courses and complete a capstone experience like an internship or study abroad. Students go on fieldtrips to businesses like Old Clinton BBQ in Gray, the Waffle House, farms and food banks. Next semester, the “Exploring the Ethnic South through Food” course will offer a spring break trip to Savannah and Sapelo Island where students will explore coastal Geechee food traditions like shrimp and okra, low country boils and other ethnic cuisines.

Students also get experience in managing food events. Over Labor Day weekend, about 30 students helped organize and run the first annual “Que for the Few” at Comfort Farms in Milledgeville. Students sold tickets, served barbecue and cleaned up––things people in the restaurant business need to know how to do, Pascoe said. They also helped judge the competition and tabulate scores.

Students made deviled eggs recently in Pascoe's Southern Foodways and Traditions class.
Students made deviled eggs recently in Pascoe's Southern Foodways and Traditions class.

Senior Paige Magoto
Senior Paige Magoto
In November, Pascoe’s class will host a ‘Pop-Up Restaurant” at Chappell Hall. Satterfield’s BBQ in Macon will serve its specialty dish for the campus and local community. Students will sell tickets, set up, serve and clean. Also in November, there’ll be a reception for the Global Foodways Studies program. Students will be involved in planning the menu. They’ll manage all aspects of the event from cooking and greeting guests to serving and cleaning up.

Functions like these give students “a sense of what it’s like to run a food-focused event,” Pascoe said. Experts expect jobs in the restaurant sector to grow 12 percent by 2026, he added.

“The certificate is a way to get hands-on, realistic experience,” Pascoe said. “We’re mindful of the fact this is a new world we live in. We’re not just here to teach academics. We’re here to prepare people for jobs, and I think this certificate does just that.”

...history isn’t just confined to a textbook. History is in the pizza that you’re eating.
– Claire Remley
Junior history major Claire Remley was the first to sign up for a foodways certificate. She’d like to get a doctorate in history and become a professor.

“I’ve always been interested in the study of societies and cultures,” Remley said. “I think this class is such a great opportunity, and it’s not just for history majors. It’s something everybody could take to learn that history isn’t just confined to a textbook. History is in the pizza that you’re eating. History is in that fried chicken, the soul food that you’re getting, and it’s an opportunity to learn history from a different perspective.”

Dr. James “Trae” Welborn, associate professor of history, teaches the introductory course for Global Foodways Studies. He began the semester with a lesson on pre-modern pepper, and how it was “supplanted by the now ubiquitous black peppercorn” as an essential spice.

Sophomore Madison Campbell
Sophomore Madison Campbell
He moved on to legumes––like Mexican black beans, chickpeas for traditional Indian hummus and Mediterranean black-eyed peas––as global staples. Welborn will also focus on meals using underground vegetable “tubers,” like pan-fried potatoes, that were a source of nutritional enrichment in impoverished areas. His students will consider the production process and marketing campaigns of industrial food networks like Coca Cola, as well.

Like Pascoe––who worked in the industry doing everything from washing dishes to owning a restaurant––Welborn has restaurateurs in his lineage. In the 1940s, his great-grandmother owned and operated a restaurant in the South Carolina low country.

“The foodways program allowed me to merge my personal and professional interests in engaging and enlightening ways,” Welborn said. “As a cultural historian of identity, emotion and morality, I find foodways is a natural focal point to better understand facets of past lives, societies and cultures.”

The opportunity to delve more deeply into these dynamics enabled me to expand upon my research and teach in new and exciting ways.
– Dr. Trae Welborn

Sociology Professor Sandra Godwin is teaching a course, called “Sociology of Food & Agriculture.” Her students are visiting the GC Garden on West Campus for lessons in growing lettuce, kale and carrots, as well as composting. Students are also learning the effects of capitalism, and how it influences what “ends up on their plates,” she said. Many farmers and farm workers receive low wages. Large corporations take over family farms, and industrial agricultural practices can hurt the environment.

“Reimagining how we produce and distribute our food must be a part of how we address climate change, as well as other social problems related to a capitalist food system," Godwin said.

I literally witnessed farm-to-table.
– Parker Woods
Senior history major Parker Woods of St. Simons Island can attest to the impact of farm lessons such as these. She interned at Comfort Farms last spring––doing inventory, stocking shelves and completing orders for meat and vegetables. She enjoyed meeting the veterans who shop there and hearing their stories.

“I like the story food can tell, and I think it plays a large part in history and culture,” Woods said. “I sold people meat every week. I learned how people prepare cuts I'd never even considered trying, like beef tongue. I watched animals be slaughtered, butchered and prepared. I literally witnessed farm-to-table.”

For more information on the Global Foodways Certificate Program, please visit: https://www.gcsu.edu/artsandsciences/history/global-foodways-studies-program-certificate-department-of-history-and