Sarah Portnoy

Assistant Professor (Teaching) of Spanish

Contact Information
E-mail: portnoy@usc.edu
Phone: (213) 821-2138
Office: THH 266

Curriculum Vitae
Course Information


  • Ph.D. Romance Languages and Literatures, UC Berkeley, 5/2005

  • Description of Research

    Summary Statement of Research Interests
    My current research is on the culture of food in Hispanic Los Angeles and Hispanic culinary culture in general. I am in contact with various chefs, writers, journalists and bloggers as part of my research/pedagogical investigation. I have been researching the topics of food and identity, food and immigration, food and community/family celebrations, and food and political/social issues, particularly as they relate to the Hispanic population of Los Angeles. I have been visiting loncheras (taco trucks), restaurants from various regions of Mexico as well as Spanish-speaking countries, and eateries that range from street carts to high end cuisine to study how these locales relate to the topics mentioned above (food and globalization, immigration, identity, social issues, community, etc.) I am particularly interested in food and health/policy issues. I have been researching about issues of diabetes and obesity in the Hispanic community and discussing the issue with experts in the field at USC in order to bring this knowledge to my class. I was asked to submit an article for a new UC on-line journal on my current research. I have also begun to participate in the growing field of Food Studies through conferences, etc. I have also been researching how to use blogs in my teaching. Currently, my studies are using the USC sponsored Wiki to create their own blogs. They upload photos, videos and maps detailing their experiences onto their blogs. They write in Spanish about the topic assigned for a given week and integrate theoretical concepts from the reading into their blog. In addition, I have been researching the field of food writing. What makes food writing appealing and interesting to read? In order for my students to write interesting blogs, I need to teach them how to use all their senses in their writing and how to tell a story that will be entertaining to their audience. So far, this project has been very successful and I hope to be able to continue this ongoing project and apply my knowledge to future classes. My past research was on various forms of Hispanic folklore that originate in medieval Iberia. I have done fieldwork in Spain, Cuba, and Mexico since 1997. I wrote a dissertation on the Hispanic ballad of Delgadina and how it evolved as a Spanish romance, Cuban children's song, and Mexican and Mexican-American corrido. I have incorporated my background in Folklore into my current research on food and culture by viewing each chef, cook, customer, and so on as an informant with an interesting and important story to tell whose history is a vital part of the dish itself. Thus, my interest in folklore continues in a new and exciting field.
    Research Keywords
    Food Studies, health inequities and food, access and food, diabetes, food and public policy, Mexican cuisine, Los Angeles, lonchera, Food and identity, blogs, technology and pedagogy, Food writing, food and social issues, Food trucks, Folklore, Food and visual representation, food and regionalism
    Research Specialties
    Food and Hispanic culture, Pedagogy and technology, Experiential learning, Hispanic folklore, ballads/corridos, medieval Iberia

    Funded Research

    USC Funding
    • Center for Excellence in Teaching, Fund for Innovation in Teaching. The Culture of Food in Hispanic Los Angeles: Students will visit various neighborhoods and eateries around Los Angeles and explore new technologies for sharing theoretical knowledge and actual experiences through their own blogs. , $5,000, Spring 2010   

    Conferences and Other Presentations

    Conference Presentations
    • ""A Quest for Authenticity: Teaching about the Tradition of Mexican Food in Los Angeles.", Future of Folklore, Western States Folklore Society, Talk/Oral Presentation, USC , Department of Anthropology, Invited, 2011-2012   
    • "A Quest for Authenticity: The Tradition of Mexican Food in Los Angeles", Global Gateways and Local Connections: Cities, Agriculture, and the Future of Food Systems, Talk/Oral Presentation, Refereed Abstract, New York University , New School and NYU, Invited, 2011-2012   
    • "The Situation of Sephardic Jews in Contemporary Cuba", UC Irvine, Talk/Oral Presentation, Paper, UC Irvine, Dept. of Jewish Studies and Spanish Dept., Invited, 2008-2009   
    • "The Theme of Immigration in the Corridos of Los Tigres del Norte", Conference in Honor of Guillermo Hernandez, Talk/Oral Presentation, Paper, UC Santa Barbara, Dept. of Chicano Studies, UCSB, Invited, 2008-2009   
    • "La Decima on the Internet, in the Classroom, and Beyond", In Honor of Samuel Armistead, Talk/Oral Presentation, UC Davis, UC Davis Dept. of Foreign Languages, Invited, 2007-2008   

    Other Presentations
    • "The Hispanic Ballad Tradition: from Medieval Iberia to Modern Day Los Angeles", Public Lecture, Folklore Series in Honor of Alan Dundes, Pasadena, CA, 2007-2008   
    • "The Situation of Sephardic Jews in Contemporary Cuba", Conference at UC Irvine, Spanish Dept, Jewish Studies, UC Irvine, 2007-2008   

    Multimedia Scholarship and Creative Works

    • Blog, "Los Angeles Culinary Culture", Blog for my students, but I also use it to upload photos and describe class activities, share it with outside community, 2012-2013   

    New Courses Developed

    • The Culture of Food in Hispanic Los Angeles, Spanish, The food culture of Los Angeles represents virtually all of Latin America and Spain, often in dialogue with foods and practices from other parts of the world. Working individually and in teams, students in the course will explore restaurants, cafes, markets and food trucks, they will then document and analyze their experiences in blogs to be posted online. As they perform these various tasks, students will learn about the cultures of the people who run and frequent these establishments, develop their oral and written Spanish language skills in authentic settings, get to know the city’s diverse neighborhoods, and share their newly acquired knowledge with the larger community of Spanish-speaking blog readers. Experiential learning will be supplemented with in-class discussions of readings on culture and food, especially in the intersecting contexts of immigration and globalization, nationalism and regionalism, political activism, and ethics and the environment., 2010-2011   

    Teaching Innovations and Multimedia Teaching

    • Creation of a course blog: losangelesculinaryculture.wordpress.org, 2012-2013   
    • Using the University Wiki to create a class blog/creation of a non-USC class blog, Fall 2011   

    Service to the University

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations
    • Participating in the Los Angeles Food Policy Council , Street Food working group, working to legalize street food in the city of Los Angeles, 01/2011-  
    • Article written about my course on USC website in June 2012, http://dornsife.usc.edu/news/stories/11, 2012-2013   
    • helping to plan a Visions and Voices event for March 2013, asked to be a featured speaker on the panel, Spring 2012   
    • Worked with many members of LA community (LA Times journalists, chefs, experts on food policy, etc) to participate in food and culture class, Spring 2011   

    Service to the Profession

    Media, Alumni, and Community Relations
    • worked with community gardens as part of Culture of Food class, 2011-2012   
    • Worked with various journalists, chefs, policy experts, etc. to develop food course, 2011-2012   

    Other Service to the Profession
    • Gave a talk at Center for Excellence in Teaching on how I integrated service learning/community involvement into my class, Spring 2011   

  • Department of Spanish and Portuguese
  • Taper Hall of Humanities 156
  • 3501 Trousdale Parkway
  • University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles, California 90089-0358