Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Academic Chocolate

I once had a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education. It wasn't so long ago. In December, over my first grad school Christmas break, I felt inspired by my new status as an academic and signed up. Then the semester started again and I barely had time to finish the reading assignments for my own classes before turning to the weekly stack of essays that my undergrads dutifully turned in. The Chronicle languished in the corner. On top of that, I admit to a twinge of embarrassment over the uncool vibe that such a publication languishing in the corner might send to visitors. It's bad enough that she doesn't watch TV, friends might have said to themselves, but she also sits around and reads the Chronicle of Higher Education on Saturday nights. (If only I'd had that kind of free time on Saturday nights). So I cancelled the subscription.

Of course, the Chronicle of Higher Education does sometimes run articles about chocolate. And one of my professors, who rightly shares none of my neurotic paranoia about being seen with this academic newsprint, kindly clips those pieces and passes them on to me. In March, a reporter focused on a introductory class at Southwestern University titled "Multi-Chocolated: An Aesthetic, Historical, and Scientific Journey into the Wonders of Chocolate," in which freshman explore theobroma cacao across the disciplines by using the move from dark to milk chocolate as a metaphor for evolution and study a chocolate airdrop into West Berlin as part of a European history lesson. Last year, the Chronicle profiled a biology instructor at Olivet College, affectionately known as "Doc Choc;" but I can't find that clipping and--the catch--you can only read it online if you're a subscriber.

You can read the Chronicle at the library, which is where I'll be spending a lot of time before I head off to the annual Association for the Study of Food and Society conference in New Orleans next month. ASFS maintains a food studies listserv (whose members include Bay Area chocolate legend Alice Medrich and the Boston-based chocolate-influenced gastronomer Beth Forrest), to which cultural anthologists occasionally write in to ask for advice on researching the concept of terroir in the chocolate industry.

Subscriptions to the Chronicle of Higher Education start at $40. The ASFS listserv is free and anyone can apply to join.


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