I’m going back to school – MSc in Gastronomy at QMU

I am so excited to have won a funded position on Queen Margaret University’s MSc in Gastronomy! I’ve wanted to do this since it launched it 2013 so am thrilled to be starting in September. I’m also looking forward to satisfying my stationery ‘habit’ and buying some new notebooks.

It’s a full-time, one year course and offers a fully immersive and in-depth study of all aspects of the food industry – as people keep asking me what it involves I thought I’d share the programme for anyone else who might be interested in applying – there will be more funded places available in 2017 and it’s an incredible opportunity.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 14.00.36MSc Gastronomy 

As instances of global and local food injustice are reported with more frequency, the dysfunction of our food system and complexity of food culture is being more widely recognised. Increasingly, it is understood that reductionist approaches to solving food-related issues are ineffective. A more comprehensive understanding and holistic approach is greatly needed.

The MSc in Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University provides an opportunity to study food in a more complete sense.  This innovative new programme – the first of its kind in Scotland – acknowledges the truly complex nature of food and includes studies in nutrition, production and consumer culture, but also moves deeper to consider food culture within the contexts of anthropology, environment, sustainability, politics and communications.

Through experience of diverse food-related businesses; from soup kitchens to Michelin Star restaurants, community allotments to large-scale agri-business, students will gain all-important exposure to the diverse dynamics affecting how we consume, produce, represent and understand food. Scotland will often be the showcase for this, but the concepts are transferable to other countries, because one thing that people require irrespective of nationhood is the ability to feed themselves.

The programme comprises four core modules and a final project:

Module 1: Food & Drink: The Relationship to People and Place – This module will take students beyond their understanding of food solely in terms of nutritional or economical value. It introduces the roles of anthropology, ethnobiology and traditional knowledge in the realm of gastronomy.

Through topics such as Food and Gender and Migrant Food Culture, the module will progress through several stages that provide historical context and social relevance to the contemporary study of food.

It will also look specifically at production of several key products, such as cheese, bread and whisky, in order to further illustrate these issues. Students will also be given the chance to consider some of the more theoretical ideas in a practical and tangible context via field trips.

Module 2: The Science of Food – This module provides students with the tools and information to make informed judgments as to the quality and integrity of food products, dietary practices and the sustainability of agro-businesses.

The module begins with scientific considerations of the body: physiology of taste, the senses, nutrition and digestion, then moves on to the science of food itself; effects and methods of cooking, and food safety. The next section is dedicated to understanding ecosystems, botany and agriculture, and the module finishes by looking at two of the most fundamental but complex processes in food production; fermentation and curing.

While it is preferable that students have some prior education in biology and chemistry, it is not essential. Basic biology and chemistry will be taught specifically in regards to food, food production, and the physiology of taste, but the aim is not to produce scientists or experts in nutrition and food safety. Rather, it is to provide an understanding of the role science plays in the realm of gastronomy.

Module 3: The System: From Field to Market – This module exposes and critically analyses the structure of, and influences upon, our current food supply system.

By observing how food gets to market and all the political, economical and legal influences that shape that journey, students will gain an understanding of the factors effecting the justice and integrity of this system.

The module is essentially divided into three main sections that follow the order of the route food takes to market: starting with the agricultural sector to show how that effects and is effected by the market (environmental impact of agriculture, worker rights, methods of agriculture), then looking at the role of middlemen and the laws that determine how food is conveyed and represented in the market, then at the market sector

Module 4: Food Communications – In this module students observe how food is consumed; both literally and metaphorically – in terms of the ideas, philosophies and habits ‘consumed’ or adopted by eaters.

Beginning with an insight into how food is communicated and ending with practical lessons in how to communicate food, this module covers how ideas of food are generated and consumed now and throughout history.

This last module truly differentiates the course as gastronomy and no other food related study, and it is significant that it comes at the end of the course. It will provide students with an overview of gastronomical approaches at work – how those with an understanding of the food system use that knowledge to change eating habits for the better, or for economic gain. It will enable students to digest all they have learned throughout the course, to consider how they are interconnected rather than disparate topics, and to think about how they might apply their understanding beyond the degree.

Queen Margaret University
Margaret Drive, Musselburgh EH21 6UU



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