This thesis project was created for the American University Honors Program.

View the full package here: Capstone Project: Something Worth Cooking For

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When we eat, we often don’t think beyond the simple: the price, the size, the taste, and the actual food itself. For some, food is a matter of survival or another task that has to be completed. For others, it’s a social occasion, an excuse for a break from something undesirable, an indulgence. But regardless of its most basic purpose – whether it be nourishment or luxury, or something in between – there’s more to food than food itself. Overused phrases and attempts of categorization speak to food’s complexity. “We are what we eat.” America as a “melting pot” or “salad bowl.” Both of these also allude to the relationship between food and identity. If to some extent, we actually are what we eat – that is, what we eat has some greater sociological impact on who we are – and American identity is a conglomeration of cultures, then what does that say about the intersection of food and culture in America? Can food preserve the plethora of cultures at play? Can international cuisine adapt to or fuse with the “Americanized” cuisine that “reigns supreme?” What are the choices chefs, consumers, and clerks make about the food they make, eat, and sell, and what do these choices mean in the larger context of cultural identity?

The purpose of this creative capstone project is to explore this crossroads between food, culture and identity through the stories of the chefs, clerks, and consumers. Because the overall topic is broad, the project will use this as a basis, but will focus in on six different instances of cuisine and cultural identity interplay. The idea is to understand the intricacies of such an interplay by way of personal stories, experiences, and opinions. Many studies and dissertations have been done on such a relationship, but because this will be conducted journalistically and with specific case studies in mind, it will render different results. The product will be a collection of profiles – written according to the tenants of basic journalism – which together will function as an in-depth feature. Although the questions posed at the beginning of this proposal will help guide the theme of the capstone, the profiles will speak for themselves. In the end, the multimedia package will attempt to enlighten and elucidate implicitly.

Structure & Methodology:

The capstone project will take the form of a blog. Five stories – all standard journalistic feature pieces – will be published on this blog and supplemented with multimedia elements. The degree and form of multimedia will be determined on a story-by-story basis but may include –and is not limited to –, photographs, audio, and video. The five stories – case studies – are as follows:

S1 – International students on adapting home cuisine in America

S2 – Family-owned restaurant

S3 – International food and its Americanization in the restaurant

S4 – Fusion food

S5 – Ethnic grocery store


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