Skip to main content

Behind the Blue: Using Food to Explore Culture, Build Bridges

Steven Alvarez is used to questions about language, words and meaning.
But he couldn’t have been prepared for the questions being posed for teaching one class last semester.
Provocatively titled, “Taco Literacy,” the class taught by Alvarez to undergraduates in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Studies (WRD) at the University of Kentucky used food to explore issues of Hispanic language and culture — a growing population in Lexington.
Some, however, criticized the class as an example of being frivolous. Soon, media in Lexington — and across the country — were approaching Alvarez to ask what he meant by “taco literacy.”
The class, while exploring some of the culinary smells and tastes of Hispanic and Latino food in Lexington, asked students to write often and deeply about culture and food’s role in it. Journals, blogs, websites and multimedia output were also aspects of the class as students developed their skills as writers and communicators.
In this edition of “Behind the Blue,” Alvarez, an assistant professor in the newly created WRD department, discusses the controversy, his teaching methods and his scholarly activities.
And he discusses what makes a great taco, too.
Become a subscriber to receive new episodes of "Behind the Blue" each week. UK's latest medical breakthroughs, research, artists and writers will be featured, along with the most important news impacting the university.
For questions or comments about this or any other episode of "Behind the Blue," email, or tweet your question with #BehindTheBlue.
Click here for "Behind the Blue" on iTunes.