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UCLA

Not Your Average Cooking Course

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By Kristen Hardy '17

Published Sep 23, 2016 8:00 AM


Evan Kleiman's students explored much more than recipes in her food studies class.


Photo by Reed Hutchinson/UCLA.

The eco-morality of our food might not be what first comes to mind at the thought of a food studies class, but that’s exactly what Evan Kleiman ‘80 presented for her students at UCLA last summer.

UCLA’s new Food Studies minor offered Kleiman’s class “Special Topics in Food Studies: We are Stardust: Moral Ecology of Food.” More than just learning recipes or cooking techniques, students looked at issues of food justice, equity and systemic poverty in order to adopt a more comprehensive view of the meals they eat.

Kleiman spent years as a restaurant owner and chef, but changed gears in 1997 when she was offered the host position on the radio show “Good Food” on KCRW. There she became known for featuring many different guests to take a more holistic look at the Los Angeles food scene.

Now, in transition again, she is helping students think through the moral implications of their food choices and encouraging them to think more critically about what they consume. She often teaches lectures about food around L.A., but this was her first university-level course.

Kleiman's class helps give students a broader understanding by exploring local, personal and global food issues. By the end of the course, students had written a reflective paper about something in the food industry, describing whether they felt it necessary to change their behavior.

Kleiman doesn’t just talk about food in class though. For each lecture she brings a meal to share with her students.

“I just think it’s important to have food at every class because we’re going to be talking about serious things,” she said in an interview with the UCLA Newsroom. “But the joy of making food and sharing food is something that I think everyone can agree on.”

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