We all eat for pleasure. Some of us also eat in pursuit of academic knowledge. “Food studies” is a burgeoning field where scholars consider food a potent tool for illuminating a vast range of topics and issues. Among L.A. colleges and universities, you’ll find classes on “Animal Ethics,” “Restaurant Culture,” “Food Politics,” and “Science and Food,” among others. One emphasizes L.A.’s Latino community — professor Sarah Portnoy’s “The Culture of Food in Hispanic Los Angeles” at the University of Southern California. As a class in the Spanish department, students spend ample time developing language skills. (Such as writing blogs in Spanish.) But the culinary twist means they also examine issues related to history, immigration, and cultural values. We spoke with Portnoy, a Houston native, over margaritas at Yxta Cocina Mexicana to hear her take on L.A.’s diverse and fascinating Latino food scene.