Good said it is particularly fascinating that ideas about food shape what it means to be a "good national citizen" in different countries. Consider the bento box and sushi in Japan compared with curry in India, falafel in Israel, poutine in Canada, empanadas in Chile or Peking duck in China.

"Everybody eats, and it's something most all students can relate to on some level so that we are able to get into some deeper anthropological concepts," she added. "As the world gets smaller, you can get food very easily from any place in the world, so it is important to understand that connection."

So strong is the influence of food that it has spawned an industry marked with massive marketing campaigns, educational drives, research and also government regulation of safety, production and sales.

Television shows such as "Man v. Food," "No Reservations" and "Worst Cooks in America" along with cookbooks, food blogs, manuals on cooking methods and techniques are among the contemporary mainstays.

"Books and television shows have sort of brought the connections between food and culture to the forefront of people's minds," said Good, who has previously taught the UA course online and in person.

Specific issues explored in her class deal with body image, children and food, localized identities associated with food, the lunchbox phenomena in the U.S. and parts of Asia, fast food consumption, the global food market, disease, genetic modification, the geography of food also food with relation to religion and ritual.

Take college culture, for example.

"The university itself is a great place to study food," Good said. "The dorm room pizza isn't just a little innocent thing."

Neither are habits in overindulging in salad to lose weight or in committing to a skimpy diet right before spring break, she noted.

So understanding the socialization mechanisms influencing individual and group perceptions about food can help explain why people maintain certain activities around their most coveted eats.

Which gets back to the original question – how about those Twinkies?