culinary history assignment instructions

To write a good ethnography of a restaurant requires two things: fieldwork and analysis. If fieldwork means picking a cuisine and restaurant early in the semester and being diligent when eating and observing there, good analysis means building a background understanding of the cuisine, the location and the rough period in which it emerged in Toronto. Situating a restaurant and cuisine in Toronto, physically and historically, is not easy to do and requires engaging in primary source research, which is the object of this assignment.

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This assignment asks you to look at maps made for the Tasting the Global City research project as well as historical restaurant reviews in an online newspaper archive and answer three short essay questions (250 words each) about how your restaurant and its cuisine may have been received in the past.

1. For the first part of the mapping assignment, you will focus on the geographic area immediately surrounding your chosen restaurant in the 1980 Toronto Food Map (Links to an external site.) for clues about the kinds of cuisine that may have predominated in that area prior to 2000. Use the Layers tool and look through the legend to see what non-restaurant food businesses occupied your area in the past, if any. For example, food production at the corner of Midland and Ellesmere in 1980 was dominated by large manufacturers including a famous Canadian chocolate company, a globally recognized yeast manufacturer and a major industrial bakery, not restaurants. This is rather different than how the intersection appears today. If this is what you found, you should broaden your scope to search for the closest restaurant and try to devise what kind of cuisine it may have served.

2. The second part of the mapping assignment asks you to look across the entire 1980 map for evidence of your chosen cuisine in the wider city. You can use the search bar and toggle different layers like restaurants, grocers, butchers, etc. on and off to help narrow your search, but you’ll have to dig around. For example, if your chosen restaurant happens to be a delicatessen, you might try searching around Kensington Market or around Bathurst and Lawrence in 1980 for evidence of other delis.

Tip: the historical restaurant review portion of the assignment may offer clues for where a district of restaurants, grocers, butchers and so on might have been located if not in the same area where your restaurant is today.

Whatever you find, record the location and what types of food businesses accompanied it in the surrounding area. Compile this data with what you found for your own area. If you can’t find any fragments of your chosen cuisine anywhere, you should ask yourself the following questions: Was your cuisine known by another name in the past? Might there have been similar cuisines or more general versions of it in 1980? What conclusion can you draw about its relationship to Toronto?

3. For the newspaper review portion, you will be researching how Toronto’s culture writers evaluated your restaurant’s style of cuisine in the past. The U of T Library has fully searchable digital collections of The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star dating to the 1800s. You can find THE DATABASE hereLinks to an external site. with your Utorid.

To begin, deselect all databases and then scroll down and select just the “ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Globe and Mail” and “ProQuest Historical Newspapers: “Toronto Star” and then click the “Use Selected Databases” button. In the ‘Advanced Search’ function, you can start searching for your cuisine by typing either the name of the cuisine or one of its most recognizable dishes into the first bar followed by the word “restaurant” into the second bar. For example, if I’m researching Lebanese cuisine, I might try typing “falafel” (without quotations) in the first bar and “restaurant” (again, no quotations) into the second bar. You can add more search bars if you want, although two is usually enough to generate some good responses.

To narrow down the search even more, we can limit the results to a certain historical range. Select “Specific date range” from the ‘Publication Date’ button and set out only by year the range you want to cover. The years 1950 through 2000 is a good starting range. Depending on your results, you can change the parameters to include an earlier history or narrow in depending on the initial results you get. Keep in mind that the professional restaurant critic writing for a newspaper really came into its own as a genre after 1945, though the occasional commentary can be found much earlier.

You should also limit the parts of the newspaper that are relevant for this assignment. Under the ‘Document Type’ table, select only “Advertisement,” “Article,” “News,” and “Review.” The goal of this assignment is to find at least one historical review for your cuisine. If you’re very lucky, you might even find one for your chosen restaurant. More likely, you’ll find a review of a ‘Chinese’ restaurant rather than a ‘Cantonese’ one; a ‘Barbeque’ restaurant rather than a ‘Brazilian Steakhouse’; an ‘Indian’ restaurant rather than a ‘Tandoori oven’; etc. If nothing appears on your first search, try broadening your terms to include cuisines that might share some ingredients or menu items with your restaurant.