Course Syllabus

Tasting Culture: Nordic and Mediterranea Food, Tradition, and Nutrition

DIS Logo


Semester & Location:

Summer Session 3 2023 - DIS Copenhagen and CYA Athens

Classroom Copenhagen


Type & Credits:

4 credits

Study Tours:

Samsø, Denmark and Ikaria, Greece

External Course:

This class is a collaboration between DIS and CYA

Major Disciplines:

Anthropology, History, Sociology



Faculty Members:

Anders Larsen, DIS and Aimee Placas, CYA

Description of Course

We eat to live. But food is not just about survival. We express who we are through our food. How we eat is, however, also shaped by other forces, often invisible to us in our everyday lives. Over four weeks we will explore Denmark and Greece — allowing us to understand both the commonalities and the differences that such forces bring to food and cuisine, as well as people’s imagination and inventiveness in creating something to eat.

The course begins in Copenhagen, Denmark, the emergent capital of New Nordic Cuisine, where tradition is being reinvented at levels both everyday and haute cuisine. To balance our understanding of urban foodways, we will also spend three days on the rural island community of Samsø, known for quality produce and sustainable living.  The course continues in Athens, Greece, a country associated with the Mediterranean diet and a strong cultural history of knowledge and attention to food. We will supplement this exploration with a few days on the island of Ikaria, to explore the locality of food traditions and production. These four locations will enable us to do comparative research and both explore and deconstruct the categories of new/old, urban/rural, north/south, global/local, tradition/modernity, and change/continuity. Along the way, the medicalization of diets, changes in agriculture, food tourism, food security, nationalism, locality, sustainability, and more will be addressed. When not in the classroom, we will visit farms, vineyards, groves, restaurants, markets, museums, kitchens, sweets shops, cooperatives, NGOs, and festivals in our quest to experientially study food, and taste everything that comes our way. By taking this class, students will develop a sound understanding of how food is studied as an expression of society and culture, and hands-on training in the methodologies used to examine food and food practices.

Learning Objectives

  • You will gain a firm understanding of the study of food in its social and cultural aspects, working towards understanding the multilayered dimensions of food practices.  
  • You will become familiar with the bibliography related to food in Denmark and Greece.
  • You will be able to analyze food practices within a general understanding of the social structures of the contemporary Danish and Greek societies and their historical development.   
  • You will learn to think about preparing, sharing, and eating food as activities that are central to building human relationships and creating meaning.
  • You will become a critical reader of advertising, labeling, and popular news stories related to food and health.
  • You will understand the central themes in contemporary debates surrounding food in regard to health, identity, nation, gender, environment, and more in a European context.
  • You will have broadened your palate with many amazing new tastes and textures.
  • You will receive a basic introduction to ethnographic and organoleptic research methodologies and have put those research methods into practice.


Aimee Placas


Aimee Placas holds a PhD in Anthropology from Rice University. She has been a lecturer in the CYA program in Athens, Greece from 2003, where she teaches courses on the anthropology of food, political anthropology, Greek ethnography, and gender and sexuality. Her research and publication interests include the anthropology of consumption, economic anthropology, political anthropology, and gender and sexuality.

Anders Larsen


Anders Larsen holds a Canditatus Magisterii in History and English from the University of Copenhagen (2008). His research has focused on cultural history, material and visual culture. Anders teaches classes on food, fashion, and urban design. Anders has over the years worked on various projects for DIS relating to cultural competencies and cultural engagement. He has furthermore worked on staff training within the Housing & Student Affairs department. With DIS since 2007. He has most recently published 111 Places in Copenhagen that you shouldn't miss, and a Cultural History of Gay Men in Denmark 1900-2020. 



Cowan, Jane K. “Going out for Coffee? Contesting the Grounds of Gendered Pleasures in Everyday Sociability.” Contested Identities: Gender and Kinship in Modern Greece, 180–202. Princeton University Press, 1991.

Danish Agriculture and Food Council. Denmark, Danish Food and Gastronomy. Copenhagen: Danish Agriculture & Food Council, 2011.

De Certeau, Michel, Luce Giard, and Pierre Mayol. The Practice of Everyday Life, Vol. 2: Living and Cooking. Univ. Of Minnesota Press, 1998. (selections)

Du Boulay, Juliet. Cosmos, Life and Liturgy in a Greek Orthodox Village. Evia: Denise Harvey, 2009. (selections)

Leer, Jonathan. "The Rise and Fall of the New Nordic Cuisine." Journal of Aesthetics & Culture 8, no. 1 (2016).

Meneley, Anne. “Like an Extra Virgin.” American Anthropologist 109, no. 4 (2007): 678–687.

Papagaroufali, Eleni. “Uses of Alcohol among Women: Games of Resistance, Power and Pleasure.” In Alcohol, Gender and Culture, edited by Dimitra Gefou-Madianou, 48–70. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Parrott, N., N. Wilson, and J. Murdoch. “Spatializing Quality: Regional Protection and the Alternative Geography of Food.” European Urban and Regional Studies 9, no. 3 (2002): 241–61.

Petridou, Elia. “What’s in a Place Name? Branding and Labeling Cheese in Greece.” Food, Culture and Society 15, no. 1 (2012): 29–34.

Petridou, Elia. “The Taste of Home.” Home Possessions: Material Culture behind Closed Doors (2001): 87–104.

Social Issues Research Center. Social and Cultural Aspects of Drinking: a Report to the European Commission. Oxford: SIRC, 1998. (selections)

Sutton, David E. Secrets from the Greek Kitchen: Cooking, Skill, and Everyday Life on an Aegean Island. Univ of California Press, 2014. (selections)

Tan, Fransisca Hok-Eng. "Flavours of Thought: Towards a Phenomenology of Food-related Experiences." Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems 11, no. 4 (2013): 400-414.

West, Harry G. "Artisanal Foods and the Cultural Economy: Perspectives on Craft, Heritage, Authenticity and Reconnection." In The Handbook of Food and Anthropology, by Jakob A. Klein James L. Watson, 406–434. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

Various Handouts as indicated in the syllabus.

Supplementary readings (will be referred to in lectures or parts of which will be workshopped during classtime):

Bampilis, Tryfon. Greek Whisky: The Localization of a Global Commodity. Berghahn Books, 2010.

Bardhi, Fleura, Jacob Ostberg, and Anders Bengtsson. “Negotiating Cultural Boundaries: Food, Travel and Consumer Identities.” Consumption, Markets and Culture 13, no. 2 (2010): 133–157.

Barthes, Roland. “Toward a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption.” In Food and Culture: A Reader, edited by Carole Counihan and Penny Van Esterik, 23–30. Routledge, 2012.

Bennett, Diane. “Saints and Sweets: Class and Consumption Ritual in Rural Greece.” In The Social Economy of Consumption. Vol. 6. New York: University Press of America, 1989.

Bourdieu, Pierre. Distinction. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984 (1979).

DeSoucey, Michaela. “Gastronationalism Food Traditions and Authenticity Politics in the European Union.” American Sociological Review 75, no. 3 (June 1, 2010): 432–455.

Douglas, Mary. "Deciphering a Meal." Deadalus, Winter 10 (1972): 61–81.

Eric Ball. “Greek Food After Mousaka: Cookbooks, ‘Local’ Culture, and the Cretan Diet.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 21, no. 1 (2003): 1–36.

Galanopoulos, Konstantinos, Konstantinos Karantininis, Konstadinos Mattas, and Christos Karelakis. "Exploring the Relations, Bargaining Forms and Dynamics of the EU Food Supply Chain under the Perspective of the Key Actors: Evidence from Greece and Denmark." Int. J. Food System Dynamics 2, no. 3 (2011): 274-280.

Gefou-Madianou, Dimitra. “Exclusion and Unity, Retsina and Sweet Wine.” In Alcohol, Gender and Culture, edited by Dimitra Gefou-Madianou, 108–136. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Hald, Mette Marie, Jacob Mosekilde, Betina Magnussen, Martin Jensen Søe, Camilla Haarby Hansen, and Morten Fischer Mortensen. "Tales from the barrels: Results from a multi-proxy analysis of a latrine from Renaissance Copenhagen, Denmark." Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 20 (2018): 602-610.

Halkier, Bente, and Lotte Holm. "Food Consumption and Political Agency: on Concerns and Practices among Danish Consumers." International Journal of Consumer Studies 32, no. 6 (2008): 667-674.

Hegnes, Atle Wehn. "Introducing and Practicing PDO and PGI in Norway." Anthropology of Food 7 (2012).

Hermansen, Mark Emil Tholstrup. "Creating Terroir: an Anthropological Perspective on New Nordic Cuisine as an Expression of Nordic Identity." Anthropology of Food 7 (2012).

Herzfeld, Michael. The Poetics of Manhood. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Herzfeld, Michael. "Culinary Stereotypes: The Gustatory Politics of Gastro-Essentialism." In The Handbook of Food and Anthropology, by Jakob A. Klein James L. Watson, 31–47. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

Holm, Lotte, Marianne Pipping Ekström, Jukka Gronow, Unni Kjærnes, Thomas Bøker Lund, Johanna Mäkelä, and Mari Niva. "The Modernisation of Nordic Eating. Studying Changes and Stabilities in Eating Patterns." Anthropology of Food 7 (2012).

Jensen, Tenna. "The Consumption of Fats in Denmark 1900-2000. Long Term Changes in the Intake and Quality." Anthropology of Food 7 (2012).

Kahma, Nina, Johanna Mäkelä, Mari Niva, and Thomas Bøker Lund. "Associations between Meal Complexity and Social Context in Four Nordic Countries." Anthropology of Food 10 (2014).

Kjeldsen, Chris, Lise C. Deleuran, and Egon Noe. "The Quality Turn in the Danish Food Scape: New Food Chains Emerging–New Territorial Impacts?." Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, 63, no. 1 (2013): 19-28.

Kravva, Vasiliki. “The Taste of Belonging: An Ethnographic Approach to the Study of Commensality and Collectivity.” Balkan Border Crossings: First Annual of the Konitsa Summer School (2008): 202.

Luetchford, Peter. "Ethical Consumption: The Moralities and Politics of Food." In The Handbook of Food and Anthropology, by Jakob A. Klein James L. Watson, 387–405. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

Mührmann-Lund, J. "Food Policing in Early Modern Danish Towns." Rural Landscapes: Society, Environment, History 3, no.1 (2016):1–13.

Naska, A., and A. Trichopoulou. “Back to the Future: The Mediterranean Diet Paradigm.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 24, no. 3 (2014): 216–19.

Papagaroufali, Eleni. “Uses of Alcohol among Women: Games of Resistance, Power and Pleasure.” In Alcohol, Gender and Culture, edited by Dimitra Gefou-Madianou, 48–70. New York: Routledge, 1992.

Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. Perfection Learning, 2007.

Rakopoulos, Theodoros. "The Crisis Seen from Below, Within, and Against: from Solidarity Economy to Food Distribution Cooperatives in Greece." Dialectical Anthropology 38, no. 2 (2014): 189-207.

Seremetakis, C. Nadia. The Senses Still. University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Sutton, David E. Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory. Oxford: Berg, 2001.

Urry, John. Consuming Places. Routledge, 2002.

Vlontzos, George and Marie-Noelle Duquenne. “Economic Crisis and Food Selection: The Financial, Social and Spatial Dimension.” Int. J. Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology 10, no. 2 (2014).

West, Harry G. "Artisanal Foods and the Cultural Economy: Perspectives on Craft, Heritage, Authenticity and Reconnection." In The Handbook of Food and Anthropology, by Jakob A. Klein James L. Watson, 406–434. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016.

Yiakoumaki, Vassiliki. “‘Local,’ ‘Ethnic,’ and ‘Rural’ Food: On the Emergence of ‘Cultural Diversity’ in Greece since Its Integration in the European Union.” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 24, no. 2 (2006): 415–445.

Yiakoumaki, Vassiliki. “The Nation as ‘Acquired Taste’: On Greekness, Consumption of Food Heritage, and the Making of the New Europe.” New School for Social Research, 2002.

Study Tours

Since you spend two weeks in Copenhagen with DIS and two weeks in Athens with CYA, you will travel on two short Study Tours instead of one week-long Study Tour (as with most courses in Session 3). You will spend two of your weekends travelling out to the islands of Ikaria in Greece and Samsø in Denmark to explore local food traditions.

Study Tour Objectives

  • You will understand the terroir of these islands and how it works in tandem with other forces in shaping the local food cultures.
  • You will gain insight into the factors that affect the production and consumption of food.
  • You will improve your skills in tasting and assessing foods.

Ikaria, Greece

The picturesque island of Ikaria is nestled in the middle of the Aegean Sea. The lush island has a long lasting tradition of producing wines as well as raising goats. Ikaria is considered one of the world's blue zones, meaning that the population regularly lives to an advances age. In this case partially due to the local diet. 

Samsø, Denmark

Samsø is known for producing high-quality sustainable vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. These are staples in traditional Nordic cuisine. Additionally, Samsø has a unique island climate with rare indigenous plants that chefs have recently started to explore. While on study tour, we explore how the terroir of Samsø, as well as the history of the island, inform local practices around food production and consumption. We will meet with manufacturers of produce, sample their goods, and learn about how they are used.


Approach to Teaching

Classes are conducted as a combination of lectures, group discussions, and interactive exercises. Active student participation is expected. Class sessions will be complimented by excursions and independent field work. 

Expectations of the Students

Students are expected to show up for class prepared and participate actively. 

Computers and tablets are allowed in class PURELY for note taking purposes. Cases of other uses such as Facebook, emails, or internet surfing will have a negative impact on your participation grade. Cell phones are to be shut off or silenced during class and texting etc. during class will have a negative impact on your participation grade.


Active class participation throughout the course: A=96 / Occasional participation: B=86 / Little or no participation: C=76. Fine-tuning of percentage points may occur, reflecting student performance.

Note that attendance at all classes and field studies is required and expected and is not credited as participation. Failure to attend will have a negative influence on the participation grade, however.

How to Get a Good Grade

  • Involve yourself! Allow yourself the luxury of taking a genuine interest in the course, i.e. in ‘food’. It may not be your core field or interest, but why not join the many students who have been surprised at how interesting it actually is to suddenly understand the history and nutrition of the food we consume.
  • Get organized! Enter all due dates in a calendar and set aside time to work on assignments and prepare for class. 
  • Prepare for class! Every class! 
  • Take good notes! You will be graded on your analytical thinking. 
  • Participate! Sharing your thoughts and ideas in class is not just important for the participation grade, it is one of the best tools for developing your analytical skills.

Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic RegulationsLinks to an external site. on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia - www.DISabroad.orgLinks to an external site.

CYA - College Year in Athens -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due