Food and Culture

’Tis the season to celebrate the power of food to comfort, nourish and bring us together. Here, Arts and Sciences faculty, students and alumni share a few ways food shapes our lives historically, scientifically and culturally — just in time for a most special time of the year for food and family. 

It’s also the time of year to remember those who are struggling to put food on the table. Read about the efforts of our students and faculty to address one of the most complex and important issues of our time: food insecurity.

On behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State, best wishes for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Breakfast with Nick

Breakfast with Nick

Meet Ohio State alumnus Nick Dekker, or perhaps we should say “St. Nick” this time of year — a popular local food blogger, whose blog, Breakfast with Nick, chases down good eats around town, like perfect pancakes and pastries and a stick-to-your-ribs lumberjack plate. Dekker, an MA and PhD graduate from the Department of Theatre — where he was known as Dr. Breakfast — shares some fond memories of the filling, campus-area fare that’s always a hit with students.

Video: Nick Dekker

Student food pantry

Student food pantry

“We’ve had so many students and community members bring in donations and slowly, students who need help are finding their way to us,” said Admonius, a fourth-year student majoring in economics and communication.

Earlier this year, students Alec Admonius (pictured below) and Thomas Rosenberger founded the Buckeye Food Alliance, Ohio State’s first food pantry dedicated to students in need. Located on the first floor of Lincoln Tower, the pantry officially opened its doors in March 2016 with canned goods and soup ingredients.

Alec Admonius

Faculty Food for thought

How Food Shapes History

Historian Sam White teaches Food in World History, an undergraduate course that examines the roles food and drink have played in every aspect of human life — from prehistory to the present. Human evolution. Religion. Politics. Commerce. Class. War. National identity. Students can almost taste how food shaped history and how history illuminates modern food systems and modern diets.

Your Brain on Food

Gary Wenk Gary Wenk, professor of psychology; neuroscience; and molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, is a leading authority on brain aging. He is the author of the best-selling book, Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings. His new book, The Brain: What Everyone Needs to Know, will be published in March 2017.

The Ritual of Tea

Mari Noda, professor of Japanese, developed a new General Education course, Tea Culture in East Asia, a multidisciplinary experience with a strong hands-on component. The course has attracted students from across the university, who say they were drawn to it because of interests in drinking and tasting tea, nutrition and health, and history. This fall was the second time Noda offered the course.

Japanese Tea Ceremony

Connecting Through Food

Andreá Williams Andreá Williams loves to talk about food — and healthy food at that. We spoke to Williams, associate professor in the Department of English, about her focus on food, fitness and family.

"Food can bring people together, whether you’re cooking for one or for a large group. It’s a way of connecting. In terms of the broader society, my belief is that we need to increase access to healthier foods and fresher products. Make sure more people have access to good food resources so that some neighborhoods don’t become food deserts.”

“For me, food has always been about so much more than eating, it's about memories and family and community.”

Molly Tavoletti (BA, journalism, 2015) lives in New York City where she works for CNN as a producer for the morning show New Day.

In addition, she is a prolific writer, photographer and runner. While in college, Tavoletti combined her loves of gastronomy and storytelling and created a popular blog, Running for Wine, devoted entirely to recipes and food. Tavoletti also has several articles on Huffington Post.


Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Molly Tavoletti Instagram Picture

Books that Cook

Books that Cook

“Whether a five-star chef or beginning home cook, any gourmand knows that recipes are far more than a set of instructions on how to make a dish. They are culture-keepers as well as culture-makers, both recording memories and fostering new ones.”

Jennifer Cognard-BlackMelissa GoldthwaiteJennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa Goldthwaite (pictured left to right*), who both earned their PhD degrees in English at Ohio State, have captured a delectable collection of American literature centered on time-honored techniques of preparing food in Books that Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal. Both are now professors of English — Jennifer at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Melissa at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.


*Photos by Colby Caldwell (Jennifer Cognard-Black) and Howard Dinin (Melissa Goldthwaite).


courses you might take:

Molasses Cookies

Executive Dean David Manderscheid and his wife, history professor Susan Lawrence, shared one of their favorite recipes. The molasses cookie recipe is from Lawrence’s grandmother, Helen Lamb Crissman, with whom she has fond memories of baking.

Fennel and Tomato Soup

Andreá Williams, associate professor of English, relies on soups during the chilly autumn and winter months. Here, she shares a favorite from Vegetarian Times.

Kale Chips

Williams, a vegetarian, takes pride in sharing new dishes with her Texas family. These kale chips have proven to be a win with them, via with vegan recipe website Oh She Glows.

Lamb Plov

Scott Levi knows his way around the “Silk Road” — and the kitchen. Levi, associate professor in history, hosted a NEH Summer Institute last July on Central Asia’s Silk Road for middle- and high-school teachers. The program included a delectable session called “Culinary Adventures Along the Silk Road,” which let participants savor some Silk Road specialties prepped by Levi.

Turkey Meatball + Kale Italian Wedding Soup

From the time Molly Tavoletti was a small girl, her grandmother (nonna) schooled her in gardening, harvesting and cooking – the Italian way. Tavoletti’s grandmother died in 2013 but her influence lives on in Tavoletti’s cooking. Here, she shares her grandmother’s turkey meatball and kale Italian wedding soup.