Food Writing

Catalog Description

ENGL2014: Food Writing (3 credits)
An introduction to the study, analysis, and production of food writing and food media; emphasizes applied, iterative writing practices within multiple genres focused on the cultural and humanistic qualities of food. Pre: 1106 or COMM 1016 (3H, 3C)

Expanded Description

Through a series of projects, we will write food into focus, taking into account the descriptive, analytic, and stylistic qualities in food writing done by others–down to the crumbs!, as we plan and carry out writing of our own. Frequently, food writing connects gathering, cooking, and eating with acute sensory experiences, places, memories (and the people inhabiting them), and culture, oftentimes with visual (images) or auditory (sound) accompaniments. Provisional sub-themes include 1) family recipes/interview/multigenerational foodways, 2) a palimpsest placemat/documentary (layered across multiple sittings), and 3) the ends of food/preservation/discarding and expiries. In addition to occasional snacks, samplings, and meals together (the planning of which we’ll work out in more detail later), Food Writing has something to offer everyone, whether your goals are technical, creative, or both. [3 credits; Pathways 1A]

Course Goals for ENGL2014

Course goals for ENGL2014 include the following:

  1. Review and critique a variety of types of food writing and media, including food memoir, food-dedicated social media accounts, cookbooks, blogs, dietary advice, film, criticism, and reporting.
  2. Analyze the ways various food media forms represent and co-produce arrangements of power and categories of identity (such as race, gender, sexuality, and class), including ethical implications.
  3. Formulate connections and disjuncture between the history and present-day iterations of food writing.
  4. Construct and design projects and oral presentations that clearly and persuasively communicate ideas and issues about food, food media, the food industry, and the global food system, while considering issues of equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion.
  5. Additional goals may be established together as the semester gets underway.

Course Texts and Materials

The Best American Food Writing 2022

El-Waylly, Sohla, ed. The Best American Food Writing 2022. New York: Mariner, 2022. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-325441-1. (required; ~20 USD, available at the University Bookstore and from many online retailers)

Additional readings are provided as PDFs organized and stored in Canvas. You should download PDFs for reading on the screen or, if you prefer, for printing and reading. The course schedule/calendar includes in parentheses after each assigned reading a time estimate meant to assist you with calibrating your time spent reading for the course. Plan to spend as much as 30 USD on printing and photocopying over the course of the semester, if you prefer printed copies of the PDFs.


Grading will adhere to a grading contract, which you will find in your Google Folder for the class. The menu of graded items is as follows:
90s (incremental /everyday writing): 20
P1. Intergenerational/Familial Foodways: 20
P2. Annotated Palimpsest Placemat: 20
P3. Ends of Food: 20
P+. Revision and Showcase: 10
Reflection: 10

With the goal of ensuring transparency and clear, supportive communication, alongside the grading contract, projects will be reviewed and commented upon in a manner intended to be open, encouraging and constructive, and inquiry-oriented. A record of graded items will be continuously updated on the labor-based contract in your Google Folder. I will provide responses to your work following deadlines and at any other time you request input from me.

Turning in Work

Shared Folder in Google Drive
All work will be turned in via designated folders in Google Drive. You will receive an email message from me early in the semester that shares with you access to a folder for your writing and other class related work. When you submit work, double-check to make sure the file format is Google Docs (that is, please do not submit PDFs, unconverted Word docs, or Pages files, or any other file formats unless the instructions call for it). Feedback, responses, and reader notes will be returned in this same location. If and when projects (or pieces of projects), invite you to work with mixed media (e.g., images, audio, etc.), please strive to provide the materials in a reasonably accessible format.

File Naming
Please adhere to the file naming conventions shown in the instructions provided in Canvas and your Google Folder.

Late Work
Unless otherwise specified or arranged in advance, all work must be submitted before the start of class on the due date to be considered on time and therefore eligible for full credit.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation

ENGL2014 is a lower division (2xxx-level) undergraduate workshop where many of the most substantive interactions will happen in-class, whether in dialogue with one another or in applied practice where we discuss readings, analyze qualities of the media artifacts together, practice writing, or participate in reviews. Absences or lack of preparation for class will affect your colleagues' work as well as your own. The work you do in and in preparation for each class is as important as the polished assignment you turn in for any project. In addition, our syllabus and schedule are only a projection and may be subject to occasional changes and revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. That is another reason why your attendance and engagement are valued so highly.

If you must miss a class, you are still responsible for all work assigned, including turning work in by stated deadlines. Class time cannot be reconstructed or made up, and your performance, your work, and your course grade will be impacted by absences.

We will meet this semester in Davidson 125, and, perhaps, at other locations in and around Blacksburg, as we decide together (e.g., for a class outing to PKs). I encourage you to bring a laptop with you, if possible, for active note-keeping and for some in-class activities. As a rule of thumb, I ask that your in-class uses of mobile devices (e.g., cell phones) and laptop computers be focused on class-related activities. Obviously, you should silence your phones before coming to class. As long as everyone is respectfully attentive when someone is speaking, in-class technology use will not be an issue. In-class attentiveness, engagement, and preparedness (i.e., having read and prepared for each class) are a basic expectation—for the good of everyone and so that we can make the most of our time together.

Computer and Internet Usage

We may be interacting with online resources and other sites on the internet during the course. Please let me know if you have any concerns about fluency with using a browser such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. When using a computer, save your work frequently, always make backup copies, and plan your projects with extra time allowed for unexpected challenges.

Communication with Peers; Communication with the Instructor

While you can expect a considerable amount of leadership and direction to come from me, you should also make arrangements early in the semester to communicate with your peers. In other words, you are strongly encouraged to identify one or two (perhaps more) peers in the class with whom you can discuss how the class is going, consider readings and assignments, work through questions brought up in the class, and approach when you find something unclear. In short, my hope is that we all will prefer climate in which dialogue and interaction circulates between the instructor and students and also between and among students when questions come up. Finally, you should always be proactive about asking questions when you have them, either by raising questions during class or contacting me or one of your peers privately.


To communicate by email we will usually use our accounts, accessible via I encourage you to check your email at least once daily. You may call and leave a phone message, but you will at times find it more effective to use email to contact me about your work in the course. You can also set up an appointment to meet with me on campus, or to ask a question. With rare exceptions, I will respond to email inquiries within 48 hours.

Virginia Tech Principles and Policies

Principles of Community

This course adheres to Virginia Tech's Principles of Community. If you have any questions, please speak with me or consult the Principles of Community website at

Honor Code and Plagiarism

The Undergraduate Honor Code pledge that each member of the university community agrees to abide by states:

"As a Hokie, I will conduct myself with honor and integrity at all times. I will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor will I accept the actions of those who do."

Students enrolled in this course are responsible for abiding by the Honor Code. A student who has doubts about how the Honor Code applies to any assignment is responsible for obtaining specific guidance from the course instructor before submitting the assignment for evaluation. Ignorance of the rules does not exclude any member of the University community from the requirements and expectations of the Honor Code.

Plagiarism occurs when a writer passes off another's words or ideas without acknowledging their source, whether intentionally or not. For example, turning in another's work as your own is plagiarism. If you plagiarize in this class, you will likely fail the assignment on which you are working and your case may be passed to the university for additional disciplinary action. Because of the design and nature of this course, it will take as much (or more) work for you to plagiarize in it than it will to actually complete the work of the class.

For additional information about the Honor Code, please visit:

Services for You

Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD)

Virginia Tech welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. The University promotes efforts to provide equal access and a culture of inclusion without altering the essential elements of coursework. If you anticipate or experience academic barriers that may be due to disability, including but not limited to ADHD, chronic or temporary medical conditions, deaf or hard of hearing, learning disability, mental health, or vision impairment, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office (540-231-3788,, or visit If you have an SSD accommodation letter, please meet with me privately during office hours as early in the semester as possible to deliver your letter and discuss your accommodations. You must give me reasonable notice to implement your accommodations, which is generally 5 business days and 10 business days for final exams.

VT Women's Center

The Virginia Tech Women's Center (Yellow House at 206 Washington Street; 540-231-7806) works to foster a campus community where every person is supported and feels safe. Their counselors and advocates support students through all types of trauma including but not limited to sexual assault and other types of interpersonal violence and host many different types of programming and events to support the campus community.

LGBTQ+ Resource Center

The LGBTQ+ Resource Center (227 Squires Student Center) works to strengthen and sustain an open, supportive campus community at Virginia Tech. It offers a space where LGBTQ+ and all students can come together to work across our differences via education, information, and advocacy. All students are welcome in this space where you can be yourself and support diversity, equity, and inclusion.

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center (Newman Library 2nd floor, Learning Commons;, (540) 231-5436) offers free one-to-one consulting for both undergraduate and graduate students. Consulting formats include in-person, online-synchronous, and online-asynchronous. Students should bring a draft of what they’re working on and their assignment.

Counseling and Psychological Services

The Cook Counseling Center (2475 Oak Lane (0108), 540-231-6557) is dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of Virginia Tech students, providing individual counseling, group counseling, and psychiatric services. Learn more about their services online at

Dean of Students

The office of the Dean of Students is committed to your overall well-being at Virginia Tech, related to a wide variety of issues, including personal or family hardship, instances of bias or discrimination, extended absences, and any other matters in which you need support and advocacy. The office assists students with adherence to policy, conflict resolution and prevention in resolving both academic and non-academic matters, providing an informal and neutral place for students to come to express any concerns. If you notice that one of your peers is struggling somehow but you're not sure how to handle it, consider contacting the Dean of Students for suggestions. The Dean of Students helps students resolve concerns, problems, or conflicts so as to assure the best possible university experience for everyone.

  • Campus Address: 109 East Eggleston Hall
  • Phone Number: 540-231-3787, 8-5 p.m., Mon.-Fri.
  • After Hours Phone: 540-231-6411, press 1
  • Website:
  • Email:

The Market of Virginia Tech

The Market is designed to provide food assistance to students who, for whatever reason, have a hard time obtaining regular, healthy meals. Such a situation could be the result of a short-term disruption in finances, residing in a food desert, or a lack of access to other financial assistance. To sign up for assistance visit, email, or call 540-231-3787.

Cultural and Community Centers

Wirginia Tech offers several cultural and community centers to support underrepresented and underserved students' well-being, academic and professional development, as well as their sense of belonging. The centers can be found in Squires Student Center and include Intercultural Engagement, LGBTQ+, Hispanic and Latinx, Black, Asian, American Indian and Indigenous spaces.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller
Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of the University Writing Program
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2023 Office Hours: W, 10-12, and by appointment
Phone: +1-734-985-0485 (Google Voice)