Chinese food, Indian food, Mexican food and Italian food — they all taste great. More importantly, however, they all have a story. Each is the product of a distinct culture, and made with unique ingredients and techniques. While most people just focus on taste, food anthropologists focus on the stories.

Eating is a universal practice that shapes and is shaped by culture, and the best way to learn about international cuisines and food practices is to actually get out and travel. As a hobby this works very well, as you are rewarded with lots of good food and new experiences. However, if food and travel are your passions, why limit yourself? Appreciating food around the globe can actually become a career, and it's called food anthropology. 

Your New Dream Career

Beach, beaches, Hawaii, Summer, break, Spring Break, vacation, holiday, Travel, palm tree, palm trees
Denise Uy

Formally, food anthropology is defined as "exploring the role that food plays in communities and society as a whole." This field moves beyond just looking at different world cuisines. It focuses on how historical forms of cooking and ingredients evolve and how they adapt to affect our modern society.

Since the beginning of time, our ancestors have cooked to sustain themselves and build strong social networks. Food anthropologists study the different ways this is done around the world and throughout history.

food court, scandanavian, International, scandanavia, Denmark, Copenhagen, Nyc, Danish
Denise Uy

Whether you live in a small, rural village in Peru or in the heart of New York City, food is a necessity and a main focus of day-to-day life. It's what we survive off of, and today, what we use to boost instagram likes and retweets. Food not only has become "trendy" but has shaped the way we see ourselves in our own culture and other cultures. Traveling, first and foremost, allows for the exploration of new places. Add food to the mix, along with the chance to educate others, and a whole world of  opportunity opens up. 

So What Are My Options?

sushi, salmon
Lauren Lee

As a food anthropologist, the possibilities of what you can do are extensive and can be fine-tuned to specific interests. You can become an educator and teach about the role of food in cultural celebrations. Or, you can delve deeper into history and work with archaeologists to better understand how meals were prepared thousands of years ago.

You can even travel the world, studying opinions about food and how those opinions can relate to predominant religious beliefs. Whatever you may choose to pursue, this career path is one that anyone (and everyone) can find their place in. Quite simply, it generates joy and curiosity from the simplest things in life — food and travel. 

How to Start

tea, coffee, Friends, laughing, Friendship, smile, happy
Julia Gilman

So you decide to follow your heart (and your stomach) by pursing a career in Food Anthropology. Congratulations! However, you are unsure how to start. What classes do you need to take, what should you get a degree in and how can you simply get more information?

Consider a degree in anthropology, as it is easier to focus on food in anthropology than is is to focus on culture in a food-focused degree, like food science. Try to custom tailor your course load with the most relevant classes.

Additionally, stay on top of food trends. Make sure you know what is happening not just in the United States, but globally, so you can begin comparisons. For your own enjoyment and education, watch TV shows like Anthony Bourdain's Part's Unknown.

Most importantly, don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, travel to a country you have always wanted to go to or take a bite of unfamiliar food. Spread your tastebuds and fly!