University of Kentucky Now Offering a ‘Taco Literacy’ Course

The University of Kentucky (UK) at Lexington has a new creditable course called “Taco Literacy: Public Advocacy and Mexican Food in the U.S. South” that debuted during the spring semester.

“This class allows our students to explore the issues of immigration, inequality, workers, intercultural communication, and literacy through the prism of food,” explained Steven Alvarez, a Writing and Digital Studies professor at UK who will be handling the new course, in an interview with Javier Cabral of munchies.vice.com. “There is a a lot of pressure for our students to go into majors like finance, economics, or medical school, because you can’t tell your parents, ‘I want to be a writer!’ Often, a lot of our students tend to fall back on wanting to become teachers, too. This class offers students more flexibility when it comes to writing-based majors.” he said.

According to Professor Alvarez, students begin by writing their personal connections to Mexican food, their preferences and their sense of what Mexican food means culturally as part of American and global cuisine. They will engage with the history of a particular dish of their preference and further research into the topic connected to variances, local varieties, and the movement of the dish to different locations.  They will also engage a digital platform to blog reactions to texts and to publish their fieldwork and research into local Mexican restaurants. Each student must complete a research project that will be published as a WordPress website. He or she must also compose 20 Instagram and 20 WordPress posts for the semester.

The required textbooks for the course are “Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food” by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, “Tacopedia” by Deborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena, “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America” by Gustavo Arellano, and “Tortillas: A Cultural History” by Paula E. Morton.The students will particularly be asked to examine the global perspective of Pilcher’s “Planet Taco” with the national context of Arellano’s “Taco USA” as tied to local, Kentucky responses and varieties of Mexican food.

According to the syllabus, the Taco Literacy class is not a lecture course but a hands-on course where participation and interaction are required. Class attendance is mandatory.

Asked to comment on how his first set of UK students have taken to the course, Alvarez told Javier: “Well, we got more students to sign up for it than we needed, and I’ve had a few more students add the class after starting. It is interesting to note also that even the most stubborn of students that say they hate writing love to write when it comes to writing about food.”

Founded in 1865, UK is presently comprised of 16 colleges, a graduate school, 93 undergraduate programs, 99 master programs, 66 doctoral programs, and four professional programs. The university has 21 athletic teams, collectively called the Wildcats, participating in the NCAA Division I SEC competitions. The varsity colors are Blue and White. The UK mascot is Scratch the Wildcat.

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