I declared my major, American Studies, the week after Thanksgiving in 2015. A week earlier, I found myself attempting to answer the question on many of my family members minds, “Now Julesy, how will you explain to an employer down the road what the heck American Studies is?” To put it quite simply, American Studies is not just American History. My major is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of America through history, culture, theater, food, and historical figures. As Professor Jim Downs, chair of the program, would say, “American Studies is the bottom-up story of American History. It tells the story of all peoples, and makes sense of where there are holes in the stories we tell.” That means that my classes have ranged from an American Drama course to my Globalization Senior Seminar about the growth of globalization following World War Two.
My Globalization Senior Seminar, a required class for all majors, will conclude with a self-designed capstone research project. I’ve chosen to focus my project on my fascination with Julia Child. When Julia Child published her book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” in 1961, she exposed Americans to French food by making it approachable and accessible. Plus, she had a television show which made cooking fun and relaxed. The “servantless American cook,” as she called her viewers and readers, learned the fundamentals of cuisine and the culture of France. Americans took a real liking to Julia and her book remains a classic to this day. In 2009, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams starred in a movie about the writing of and inspiration derived from the book, “Julie & Julia.” I’ve read the cookbook cover-to-cover on numerous occasions and have dedicated my capstone to examining the success of the book and why it still resonates with generations of Americans over 50 years since its original publication. As an American Studies major, I study the values of and changes in society, but Julia Child truly stands the test of time. Her recipes are complicated but delicious and foolproof. Because when in doubt, “don’t crowd the mushrooms, otherwise they won’t brown!” Trust me, this technique works!
The Globalization Seminar puts theory into practice. Writing about this important figure in my life plays to the notion that America is truly influenced by the world around us. In a nutshell, our culture is one of many. The food we prepare, eat, and share is American Studies.