Warren J. Belasco

belascoLong before the culture industries made celebrities out of chefs and turned cooking into a spectator sport, Warren J. Belasco (professor emeritus of American Studies) developed food studies into a serious academic field that gets to the bottom of not only our tastes and distates, but also analyses of our politics, culture, and economy. For more than thirty years, Dr. Belasco taught, researched, and served the UMBC community. Retiring in the Fall of 2011, he continues to challenge and influence how we think about food studies.


Dr. Belasco first offered a course dedicated to food studies as a senior seminar in the American Studies department in 1985. Belasco’s most famous former student is Duff Goldman ’97, who started Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes, and became a foodie star with his Food Network show Ace of Cakes. Samantha McGarity ’09 took Belasco’s foundation American Studies course on American food and said: “We looked at every part of food and consumption: Why do we eat what we eat? How do we eat what we eat? How was the food produced? I realized just how much I don’t know about the food industry. It forever changed the way I look at what’s on my plate.”


Dr. Belasco’s Food: The Key Concepts, has become a required text in several undergraduate courses throughout the country; it examines how food can be viewed in the contexts of history, culture and the environment. “This book is really an introductory overview of how one would teach food,” Belasco said. “The book is dedicated to students at UMBC because they really shaped it. Students don’t hesitate to tell me what they think.” His other books include Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry and Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel. Dr. Belasco is coeditor of Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies.


Dr. Belasco served as chief editor of Food, Culture & Society, an international multidisciplinary research journal and senior editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. He has served on the editorial boards of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture and Food and Foodways.

Online lectures and talks
  • Warren Belasco is featured in a Smithsonian Food History Roundtable, “The Politics of Food,” (2016)
  • José Andrés George Washington University Food Course: Class 5, “Food Supply Chain” (2013)
  • An Introduction to the Future of Food,” keynote address at the Smithsonian Institution Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation’s Food for Tomorrow Symposium (2010)
  • Why Food Matters,” the Second Annual Southern Foodways Alliance Viking Range Lecture (2009)
Selected Publications
  • Food Chains: From Farmyard to Shopping Cart (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).
  • Food: The Key Concepts (New York: Berg, 2008).
  • Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006).
  • Food Nations: Selling Taste in Consumer Societies (New York: Routledge, 2002).
  • Appetite for Change: How the Counterculture Took on the Food Industry (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987).
  • Americans on the Road: From Autocamp to Motel, 1910-1945 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1979).