On a recent Thursday, over pints and delicious thin-crust pizza at Otto Pizza (courtesy of executive chef and fellow BU Gastronomy student Sebastian Neva), Brad Jones and Chris Maggiolo discussed their upcoming cross-country road trip and combined passion for food, people, and culture.
Noel: Tell me about the inspiration for the to cure: project? Was there an A-HA moment?
Brad: Chris and I were independently brainstorming topics for our theses… I was thinking about going back to Italy and taking an ethnographic approach to look at WWOOFing. Chris was looking at breweries in northeastern French there on the Belgian border. We both had a moment where we thought, “We’ve been to Europe and Europe interests us, but there’s a vibrant artisanal food movement that happening right in our own backyard!” There’s a whole vast America, and many new (and old) food producers out there with experiences to share.
Chris: Another large part of it was our participation last October in the Cuisine and Culture of Québec course with Professor Rachel Black. There was a defining moment for a lot of people, and especially for us, when we had dinner at Côté Est, in Kamouraska, Québec. The 14 of us crowded into a tiny dining room that was half of the first floor of this couples house. The other half of the house was a “market” for artisanal products like jewelry, crafts, and foodstuffs. The remarkable thing was that the producers of every piece of food on our plates, raw and cooked ingredients, was present at this dinner. Cheesemakers, eel-fishers, charcuterists, produce growers, you name it. It was the highlight of the trip for me.
B: The pride and excitement for the food was amazing. There’s a huge expression of identity through these products. It inspired us and we realized these are stories that need to be told, these are individuals that need to be met, and these are foods that need to be tasted. And so we made it our mission to see how this is transpiring in America.
N: What part of the road trip are you most excited about? Is there is specific place, person, or product you just wait to reach?
C: I’m hopeful that we’ll get a chance to work with Sandor Katz (author of the acclaimed Wild Fermentation) at his homestead in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I’m also personally really excited for the Louisiana Bayou. To me it’s the epitome of what it means to be artisanal and self-sufficient. It’s also a way of life and a biome that I’ve never encountered.
B: I’m most excited for the Pacific Northwest. I’ve never visited it or experienced it and there’s such an interesting food and makers community in that region. It’s also very productive agriculturally and ecologically. Sounds like there’s strong notions of craftsmanship and local production, and I’m excited to observe it first-hand.
N: Will the end result be a mixture of visual anthropology and writing?
B: Decidedly. Yes, the project will include interviews, memoirs, personal recipes, videos, photos,audio, we’re just going to collect it all. The idea is to use all that data to create a series of digital, multimedia journals that really feature and highlight these food craftspeople in America.
N: What do you see as the biggest challenge? Are there specific aspects of the trip that worry you?
C: Fund raising! This project is totally out-of-pocket. We are hosting an indiegogo campaign, and that is what will really make this trip possible. There’s a lot a cool and thoughtful rewards offered for contributions too, so we hope people visit the site and check it out.
B: Yes, fund raising is by far our biggest challenge… But personal hygiene on the road is going to be a big challenge too! That and being without fresh coffee every morning! But just like the craftsmanship of artisans, this trip is combination of leisure and labor. It’s hard work, but it sustains you. That’s the approach we’re taking.
Chris and Brad depart from Boston in their old blue Ram 3500 in just a few short days on May 13th. To contribute or learn more about this project, visit their indiegogo campaign or find to cure: on Facebook. Happy trails and good luck intrepid gastronomes!
Noel Bielaczyc recently finished his first year in the Gastronomy Program and was the spring 2013 editor of the Gastronomy at BU blog.