Robin Somers: A Writer's Life
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Danna Jackson was a student in my 2009 UCSC College 8 Core Course, Environment and Society, where I asked students to compose  a “scaffold poem” based on Rick Bass’ “Activism’s Paradox Mountain.” Danna’s poem evokes an uncommon awareness (of self, society and environment) in her appeal that we love, rather than mistreat, the animals we eat.

I'm eighteen years of age and I'm from a very small town in the Central Valley called Waterford. Since first grade I have wanted to become a marine biologist, which is my proposed major at UC Santa Cruz. My main interest for the health of the environment was sparked about a year ago when I learned about the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" in the Pacific Ocean. Also, growing up in the Valley helped me realize how polluted the environment is and how important it is for us to solve this issue.

Danna Jackson

I love watching the energetic calves bounce through the luscious green grass swaying in the wind.

I love being full and not feeling hungry as I try not to think about where the meat from my hamburger came from.

I love the seasoned taste of a warm juicy hamburger topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and onion.

Later on, in the day, I love to think about how tasty that hamburger was, but I’m soon struck with other saddening thoughts.

It may seem as if there is a paradox here, but it’s okay to want to eat meat. It’s okay to love animals that produce this meat. It’s okay to love both of these things at the same time.

What isn’t okay is to continue to treat the animals that provide us with meat as badly as we do. We should respect these animals and not take them for granted.

I believe intuitively that people should be able to eat meat without feeling like they are doing the world’s livestock any harm. We should be able to love animals and not feel guilty for eating them. However, we must find more humane ways of doing so.


When I began teaching writing at UCSC in 2006, I cooked up a bigger agenda than instructing my students how to construct a winning argument or an extraordinary research paper. I wanted to break through their consciousness about environment and food. I wanted them to realize that every morsel of food they ate, every bag of groceries they bought, every question they did or did not ask the grocer, the baker, the butcher, the produce person about where their food came from had an indelible effect – either for the health of the planet or its demise (and theirs).

I had several things on my side: a university that boasted one of the most beautiful 25-acre organic farms on this planet; a son who is a successful local organic farmer; and an abundance of succulent new literature on food politics and culture, paramount being Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore’s Dilemma. The result was a writing course, titled “The Meaning of Food,” a course that covers the beauties and beasts of our present food system, and ultimately empowers students to become part of solution.


The Meaning of Food — Writing 2
Spring 2009
Course Description

Wendell Berry writes that there is “a politics of food that, like any politics, involves our freedom … One reason to eat responsibly is to live.” Since Berry wrote these words more than fifteen years ago, a sustainable food movement of national proportions has taken off in our own backyard, involving a network of students, farmers, laborers, food purveyors, butchers, chefs, restaurateurs, and consumers. Likewise, current debates have intensified surrounding fast food, organic food, genetically modified food, Slow Food, sustainable versus industrial agriculture, and the ethical treatment of animals we eat. We will examine the myriad issues surrounding food and, on a more savory note, reasons for today’s piqued interest in food esthetics—farmers’ markets, chefs as celebrities, organic farms, food blogs, and more. While studying both popular and scholarly works, including such disparate giants of food writing as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and celebrity chef Alice Waters, we will examine how food shapes culture, how corporations create markets, and how we as consumers affect this paradigm.

Food is a heated topic; there’s a lot to write about. Writing about food lends itself to rich description, compelling personal narratives, careful analysis, and persuasion. And so, with whetted appetites, we go to work: you will write four formal papers targeted at a variety of audiences, beginning with a memoir, followed by an analytical essay based on course readings, ending with a research paper and an Op-Ed. In addition, you are required to write a Foodie Review on a food-related experience you have participated in over the quarter. To avail ourselves of the opportunities on campus and within the community, we will visit a Farmers Market and the UCSC Farm. Informal writing assignments will also be assigned to generate ideas for major essays and to continue honing your writer’s voice. To underscore the concept of writing as an evolutionary process, each of you is required to participate in peer editing and to complete multiple revisions of your work. We also will spend one class period in the McHenry library for a session on Research Methods to assist with locating journal articles that speak to your research topic.

Required Texts
The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
The Meaning of Food reader
Pocket Keyes, Raimes

Major Assignments

Personal Inventory: While referencing Wendell Berry’s essay “The Pleasures of Eating”, you will write a brief, yet searching and fearless inventory of your food habits, attitudes, and/or philosophies.

Memoir: You will write a personal narrative on a childhood food memory that has shaped you in some way and reflects some aspect of your culture. This is an opportunity to use your experience to develop narrative voice and skill at descriptive language and sensory detail. A memoir provides an opportunity to explore from a personal perspective the theme, how food shapes culture. The memoir must tie into a broader issue of cultural, political, or historical significance.

Foodie Review: The review will be written in a conversational, descriptive blog genre, to be commented on by a peer. Although the review is stylistically more informal and contains more flair, it should be grammatically meticulous. You will publish the review on the course WebCT, where you can view each other’s work.

Analytical Essay: You will write one comparative analytical essay. This is a cumulative essay, requiring a continuum of notetaking, which will expand as you continue studying the course readings. In this essay, you are asked to take a position and support that position with textual evidence, analysis and commentary.

Research Paper (Ratatouille!): You will write research evaluations on three sources prior to compiling a research paper on one narrow aspect of food. This paper will follow the structure of either be analytical or argumentative research paper. Those structures will be explained in class. The class will attend a research methods session at the McHenry Library.

Field Trips: You will visit one Farmers Market in Santa Cruz* and tour UCSC’s Farm.

Course Requirements

  1. Attendance: Show up. Be on time. Missing class three or more times may result in failing this course. The same goes for arriving late to class. Be punctual. At the end of class, please do not unzip backpacks and put away binders or other such things. This is rude. Wait until our time is completely up and the lecture has come to an end, and I will do my very best to get you out on time. If you absolutely must be somewhere and we are running over, you may leave quietly.
  2. Note-taking: Take notes during a lecture. This is not only courteous, but also an important skill. Notetaking is a way to document valuable ideas for future use.
  3. Reading: Do all the assigned readings before the dates specified on the Course Calendar. To develop your reading skills, read the handout “Reading in Three Different Voices, look for key concepts in each reading and paraphrase them; underline any words you cannot define and look them up in a dictionary (which you should keep handy); underline passages that you find compelling or especially well-written, then write your response in the margin. Guaranteed, treasures will surface!
  4. Marginalia: Writing notes in the margins of your texts as you read is vital for developing strong critical reading skills, generating new ideas, and locating key concepts for discussion and writing. This may sound redundant, but it’s worth repeating.
  5. Peer-editing workshops: Your active, conscientious involvement in workshop not only helps your fellow writer, but also improves your editing skills, and ultimately your writing. To receive full credit on your paper, you must participate in workshop fully. This means meeting deadlines, thorough reading of your peer’s work, and thoughtful writing of comments.

Academic Integrity
Plagiarism is a violation of the University’s rules of academic integrity. Students are responsible for understanding what plagiarism is. Plagiarism is to take another person’s words or ideas and use them as your own, without giving credit to the author. When you include outside sources in your work, be sure to cite them properly. Refer to Handbook for Writers for appropriate ways to document your sources. Plagiarism and other violations of the University’s standards of academic rules of academic integrity will be reported to the University, which may result in failing the course, in addition to further disciplinary action.

Core Course Requirements
The following enrollment conditions apply:

If you are enrolled in Writing 2: This course satisfies the C2 (Rhetoric and Inquiry) requirement. Students must have satisfied the Entry-Level Writing Requirement and the C1 (Introduction to University Discourse) requirement before enrolling. Students who did not pass their college Core class in Fall 2005 with a grade of C or better have not satisfied the C1 requirement.

Spring Schedule of Santa Cruz Farmers Markets:

Wednesday Afternoon Downtown Market on Cedar Street
Saturday morning Westside Market on Western Drive and Mission
Saturday morning @ Cabrillo College
Sunday morning Live Oak Market on Portola Drive @ 17th Ave.

Adopted by the Writing Program 9/01

Final grades given in Writing 1/2 are comprehensive. Grades account for all aspects of a student’s work over the quarter—conceptual work of reading, thinking, and writing; the cooperative work of participating in a writing community; and the procedural work of completing reading and writing assignments, meeting deadlines, and attending class, writing group meetings, and conferences.
Writing Program faculty members will determine a student’s final grade by considering all of his or her work at the quarter’s end. During the quarter, students will receive written assessment and advice concerning what their work has accomplished and how it can be improved rather than letter grades on individual assignments.

Note: The final grade of D in Writing 1 or Writing 2 grants credit toward graduation, but it does not satisfy the Composition (C) or Rhetoric and Inquiry (C2) General Education Requirement. Students who receive the grade of either D or F must repeat Writing 1 or Writing 2 to satisfy the C or C2 requirement.

A (or P)
The grade of A is appropriately given to students whose preparation for and execution of all course assignments (for example, reading, in-class discussions, presentations, group projects, informal writing, essay drafts, and revisions, etc.) have been consistently thorough and thoughtful. In addition, by the end of the quarter students who earn an A are consistently producing essays that are ambitiously and thoughtfully conceived, conscious of the demands of a particular assignment, purposeful and controlled, effectively developed, and effectively edited.

B (or P)
The grade of “B” is appropriately given to students who have satisfactorily completed all class assignments, although some of these efforts may have been more successful than others. By the end of the quarter, students who earn a B are consistently producing essays that are clearly competent in that they meet the demands of assignments, are controlled by an appropriate purpose, are sufficiently developed, and are accurately edited. A “B” performance may well reveal areas of strength that are not sustained throughout.

C (or P)
The grade of C is appropriately given to students who have fulfilled course requirements although, in some instances, minimally so. By the end of the quarter, students who have earned a C have provided sufficient evidence that they can produce focused, purposeful writing that satisfied the demands of an assignment, is adequately developed, and is carefully edited although, in some instances, achieving that standard depended on multiple revisions.

D (or NP)
The grade of D is appropriately given to students whose work has been unsatisfactory is some significant way: they have not completed all the course requirements and/or their essays have not yet achieved the level of competency described in the Writing Program’s standard for passing work in Writing ½. Students receiving a D must repeat Writing 1.2 to satisfy the C or C2 requirement.

F (or NP)
The grade of F is appropriate for students whose work ni Writing ½ is os incomplete or so careless that it does not represent a reasonable effort to meet the requirements of the course.

The Meaning of Food (Writing 1/Writing 2)
Spring 2009 Course Schedule

Note: You need to be prepared to discuss the readings by the class date appearing on the syllabus

Week 1 Course Introduction
T/ 3/30
Assign: Food Inventory Essay
Assign: Three Different Voices on Berry’s “The Pleasure of Eating”

TH 4/2
Readings: Karim (2), Wendell Berry (reader)
DUE: Three Different Voices Assignment on Berry.
ASSIGN: Food Memoir


Week 2 Food Memoir
T 4/7
Readings: Petty, Tai, Allison (reader) and Michael Pollan’s “Farmer in Chief: Letter to the President Elect” in the Course Reader
Due: Food Inventory Essay
In-class: Reading Response #1 on the assigned readings

TH 4/9
In-class: Discussion of “Farmer in Chief”
Assign: Three Different Voices on FFN 1

Week 3 Fast Food Nation
T 4/14
Readings: FFN Schlosser: Intro, 1
DUE: Three Different Voices on FFN 1
DUE: Food Memoir draft, with copies for peer editing
Assign: Analytical Essay
For stewing over: Ratatouille topic (aka Research Paper)

TH 4/16
Readings: FFN Schlosser: 2, 3
DUE: Food Memoir revision
In-class: Reading Response #2 on FFN (you may bring your notes)
Study thesis and paragraph structure (handout)
Brainstorm Ratatouille topic

Week 4 Why What We Eat Matters
T 4/21
Readings: FFN Schlosser 9, Epilogue
In-Class: Reading Response #3 on FFN
DUE: Thesis paragraph for your Analytical Essay
DUE: Preliminary proposal for your Ratatouille (Research Paper)

TH 4/23
Reading: Singer & Mason (riveting criticism of the poultry industry)
DUE: Analytical Essay typed draft, with copies for your peers
DUE by Sunday Midnight: Foodie Review posted on WebCT

Week 5 Omnivore’s Dilemma
T 4/28
Readings: OD Pollan: “Introduction”, “The Plant (1)”) “The Farm” (2)
DUE: Three Voices on “Introduction”
In-Class: Reading Response #4 (you may use your notes)

TH 4/30
Readings: OD Pollan: “All Flesh is Grass” (8), “Big Organic” (9)
NOTE: When you get on this site, click the “COE John Mackey” link on the left of the page, then scroll down to “Previous entries” until you get way back to May 26: An Open Letter to Michael Pollan”
DUE: One page comparative analysis of Pollan/Mackey

Week 6 Omnivore’s Dilemma
T 4/5
Library: Meet in McHenry Library
DUE: Globally Revised and Expanded or New Analytical Essay, with copies for peer editors (send a copy to the instructor electronically)

TH 4/6
Readings: Pollan OD “Greetings from the Non-Barcode People” (13), “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” (16)
DUE: One page comparative analysis of Salatin and Naylor from OD
In-Class: Workshop Analytical Essays

Week 7 Frankenfoods, etc.
T 4/12
Readings: Dupuis and Cate (be prepared to discuss research styles)
Bring: Three pieces of research for Ratatouille
DUE: Annotated Bibliography on your Research Paper
DUE: Analytical Essay Final

TH 4/14
Readings: Kriener, Shiva (2)
Film: – The Future of Food
DUE: First Evaluative paper on one piece of research
DUE: Typed thesis (or statement of purpose) and a sketch of your Research Paper ideas, using complete sentences


Week 8 Slow Food
T 4/19
Readings: Hyman, Slow Food Manifesto, Buford or Bourdain
Optional Reading: Waters, Ritzer
DUE: Second and Third Evaluative papers on research
DUE: A draft of Ratatouille, with copies for peers to take home; email one to instructor

TH 4/21
Reading: Pollan OD “Ethics of Eating Animals (17)
In-class: Workshop Ratatouille

Week 9 Bi-Annual Meaning of Food Conference
T 4/26
In Class: Meaning of Food Conference: panel presentations
Readings: Pollan OD “Hunting” (18)

TH 4/28
Reading: Pollan OD “Gathering” (19)
In Class: Meaning of Food Conference: panel presentations
DUE: Ratatouille (Research Paper) turned in with all drafts, evaluations, and notes

Week 10 Bi-Annual Meaning of Food Conference and Celebration
T 5/2
Reading: Pollan OD “The Perfect Meal” (20)
In Class: Meaning of Food Conference: panel presentations

TH 5/4
In Class: Meaning of Food Conference: panel presentations

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