Food Assignment #2: The Curious History of Processed Food

Research at least three of the ingredients in a processed food item in your home and write a historical analysis of that product. This item can be anything from cereal to English muffins to a box of yellow rice or a bag of Doritos. The only demand is that it is processed food (i.e., an item not in its natural state, such as, say, a banana or a chili pepper). With Pollan’s The Botany of Desire and Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation as our models, you will compose a full history of at least three ingredients detailing their travels from farm, forest, or factory all the way to your pantry.

Advice: Your essay should have a thesis, and the analysis you do to support your thesis should not only tell the story of each ingredient—how they were harvested, made, etc., where they met and, finally, how they were sold—but also the significance and implications of that history.

Audience:  An interested reader

Format: 1200-1500 words (4-5 pages); MLA format

Deadlines: Draft due in class for peer review on MONTH DAY
Final draft due in class on MONTH DAY


Type: Analyze a primary source to support an arguable thesis

Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to introduce students to library research, and practice writing with thesis, evidence and analysis.  They will also gain familiarity with MLA citation formats, and practice incorporating quotations and integrating summary and paraphrasing.

Pre-Draft Activities:

  • Blog responses to all readings
  • Outline of individual ingredient research
  • Workshop on thesis, evidence, and analysis
  • Practice with citation and sources

Readings: Pollan, “Unhappy Meals” or Botany of Desire; Schlosser, Fast Food Nation


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