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Culinary Anthropology: Making Meaning Through Food With Leigh Chavez Bush

February 24 @ 7:30 pm - March 31 @ 9:00 pm

In this six-part seminar, we’ll explore how food takes on and makes meaning in our lives.


Our food choices are infused with meaning. They tell stories about our histories and form the basis of our habits. In this course, we’ll ask the questions: How do our associations with food influence what we cook and how we eat, and how does cuisine in turn impact our emotions and shape our culture?

Over the course of six weeks, we’ll explore food through the lens of culture and media and in the context of the current pandemic. We’ll explore how food and feelings interact across cultures, using our own kitchens and communities as our primary laboratories. Using methods practiced by cultural anthropologists, we’ll look at how food and our senses interplay with feelings of lust and disgust, travel and curiosity, environment and geography, and ritual and nostalgia. Along the way, we’ll hear from experts across the field of food studies, from a bio-anthropologist to a wine buyer. Through anthropological exercises and conversations about our own culinary lives and those of others, we’ll develop a layered and contextual understanding of our cultivated sense of taste and place and the emotional content that comes with it.

Note: If you are unable to pay the ticket price for this course at this time, a limited number of no-pay spots are available. Please note that this option is first-come, first-served, and reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course.


There are six total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on six consecutive Wednesdays beginning February 24.

Session 1 (Wednesday, 2/24/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): “I was overwhelmed by a feeling…” – food, feelings, and human communication

Session 2 (Wednesday, 3/3/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): Lust and disgust

Session 3 (Wednesday, 3/10/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): Food and place

Session 4 (Wednesday, 3/17/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): Terroir and tasting

Session 5 (Wednesday, 3/24/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): Ritual and nostalgia

Session 6 (Wednesday, 3/31/2021, 7:30–9 PM ET): Finale! (Virtual anthropotluck)


Outside of class, we’ll discover truths about our own tastes using anthropological methods, building up to our final project: creating an anthropologically informed food experience, which we’ll share with one another through our virtual potluck.


Leigh earned her PhD from Indiana University in Food Anthropology where she focused on food and media networks as they relate to contemporary chefs and restaurants. Since graduating she has found her way back to the Colorado mountains where she works in tech and writes a weekly happy hour column for the local publication Westword. She has taught several university courses from Interpersonal Communication to Wine Appreciation to Public Oral Communication, to which she always brings a little bit of food and feeling.


This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that meets over Zoom. Students may be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

This course is intended to create a space in which students can thoughtfully engage with food, meaning, culture, and emotion through an anthropological lens. Neither the instructor nor Atlas Obscura can offer expertise or counseling on topics such as substance abuse and/or disordered eating.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.


This course is appropriate for ages 16 and up, and may involve some sexual or intense content. One session includes an optional tasting of an alcoholic beverage; those who wish to participate must be of legal drinking age.


  • Optional: ingredients for final project. What you create is up to you!
  • Optional: bottle of wine or sake for tasting (~$20) No need to purchase it right away; more information will be provided at the beginning of class.


Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to each class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.


This online course is offered by Atlas Obscura. Founded in 2009, Atlas Obscura created the definitive, community-driven guide to the most incredible places on the planet and is now an award-winning travel company that shares the world’s hidden wonders in person and online.

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.

For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here.