May 30 - June 20, 2018

Required Courses: UNIV 209: Tasting France: The Science and Culture of Terroir

APPLY NOW     Application deadline is Nov. 15, 2017


What is the taste of place? The unique culture of food and wine in France attracts visitors from the world over. But how does French food express the characteristics of the physical and cultural environment in which it is produced? This three-week IP course (UNIV 209) will explore the history, culture and science behind French food. We will focus on the question of terroir: how geography, geology, biology, history and cultural traditions define characteristic food products such as cheese and wine. We will analyze the scientific and cultural justifications used to create legal designations that protect French foods as terroir products. We will study how these designations serve as marketing tools in France and abroad.

After one week of intensive reading, discussion and cultural and linguistic preparation on campus, we will travel to Tours, France, one of four official Gastronomic Cities in France. Tours is a vibrant university town of almost a 150,000 inhabitants nestled in the Loire Valley, a Unesco World Heritage Site dotted with Renaissance castles and gorgeous vineyards. It will be our base for excursions to meet with researchers in their labs, cheese and wine producers on their farms and in open-air markets. We will taste and discuss local wine, cheese, and other terroir products with experts and even cook our own terroir meal under the guidance a French chef. By the end of the program you will have a deep understanding of the science and culture behind the unique food culture that shapes French identity. Your understanding of the terroir model of agriculture will inform your reflection on future of eating in the 21st century.


This course will run from Wednesday, May 30 - Wednesday, June 20, 2018. The first week will be spent in Lewisburg preparing for our field work in France. During this period, we will explore fundamental scientific and cultural concepts relevant to French food. Students will also master basic French language and cultural skills that will enrich their experience abroad. We will then spend the next two weeks together in Tours, where we will live in dormitories at Francois Rabelais University, on the banks of the Loire River. This course will fulfill the Integrated Perspectives, Environmental Connections, or Global Connections requirement.


John Westbrook is a French professor who specializes in the the interdisciplinary study of contemporary France. Prof. Westbrook has lived and worked in France for many years, and has extensive experience using films, legal documents, manifestos, literary texts, school curricula, and journalistic accounts to study French national identity and how these debates intersect with questions of food culture and education.

Steve Jordan is a biology professor, and has a B.A. in French. He has spent four years living and working in France. Prof. Jordan is a molecular biologist who uses DNA to understand the ecology and evolution of many animals.


Around $6,000, depending on enrollment and travel costs. This includes lodging, excursions, and transportation, including airfare to and from the US to France. Some meals will not be covered.