Reflections from the 2018 AFHVS/ASFS Conference

By brotgerJune 26th, 2018

We’re back from the big annual food conference, hosted this year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The conference is hosted by two academic organizations: The Agriculture Food and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society (hence, the conference is called AFHVS / ASFS).  Current BU Gastronomy students attended and presented at the conference, and we asked them to share about their experience; read on to learn about how this conference experience is a great experience for any gastronaut, and tips and tricks for attending future meetings.  Thanks to Alex Cheser, Esther Martin, and Ariana Gunderson for their comments.

The host committee welcomed attendees with local Wisconsin cheese and beer on the first evening of the conference.
The host committee welcomed attendees with local Wisconsin cheese and beer on the first evening of the conference.

What was your favorite moment of the conference?
: Oh, gosh, this is hard. I can narrow it down to three moments that are my favorite for different reasons. First, I had never been to a university or program so vocal and inclusive about the area’s connection to its native peoples. From the Land Acknowledgement in the program to the amazing banquet dinner menu, the influence and presence of the Hooçak Nation was visible, revered, and welcomed in collaboration. Second, I was so happy that the LGBTQ social event I planned went so well. I just reached out to the organizers at UW on a whim and they were so receptive and excited. This kind of meet up hadn’t happened at AFHVS/ASFS before despite the visible presence of queer folks, so it was quite rewarding to feel the solidarity among the tiny group. Finally, and more selfishly, I revere the feedback I got from my presentation. I submitted it and presented it as a work in progress hoping to get constructive feedback and that’s exactly what I got and I kept getting it over the conference, even during the last event of the conference – two days after I’d presented. This is my second time at the conference and it’s such a supportive and uplifting environment.

Alex Cheser presents he paper "Fruit on the Bottom: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of LGBT People and the U.S. Food System" as part of a panel on Redefining "Good Food" in the 20th and 21st Centuries
Alex Cheser presents he paper “Fruit on the Bottom: An Interdisciplinary Analysis of LGBT People and the U.S. Food System” as part of a panel on Redefining “Good Food” in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Esther: My favorite moments were interacting with people I’d only admired from afar. I met and
spoke to some of my foodways/folklore heroes. Additionally, I got to bounce my ideas of other, more experienced scholars and get feedback, while connecting with peers going through the same grad school process as myself.

Ariana: At the welcome dinner, as I sipped local craft beer with a new friend, he reached out to a person passing our table. He cried out, “Lisa! How have you been?” and I realized which Lisa this was – Lisa Heldke, one of my favorite food studies authors. She turned to introduce herself to me and I said, “Hello! I’m Ariana Gunderson from BU’s Gastronomy Program. I’m quoting you in my presentation tomorrow!” Then we discussed the article I referenced in my talk – how often do you get to discuss a published text with its author!? Apparently, at AFHVS / ASFS, all the time!
How did this conference implement skills or themes from your Gastronomy degree?
Amazingly, I was able to literally implement my Gastronomy work by presenting my research from my Introduction to Gastronomy course! But interacting with other scholars was the best way to apply my degree: In round-tables and post-panel Q&As, I watched other scholars work through questions and research findings just like we do in class. I could put faces to names of so many people whose work I’ve been reading since I started this program. Honestly, I was a little star struck! But Food Studies is such a welcoming discipline, everyone is open and friendly. Leading scholars listened thoughtfully as I described my research and joked with me about kombucha. Just go up and introduce yourself!

Esther: The conference emphasized the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to food studies. Nothing is ever just about food, and all parts of food intersect. Food policy can learn from food history while food justice can utilize skills of food folklore. We are not isolated in our specializations, but rather united in the common theme of food as a form of education and social change.

Alex: Most of the sessions I attended focused on food policy or restructuring the food system and agriculture. Having taken all three of Dr. Ellen Messer’s food policy courses in the program, I felt very prepared as I heard each presentation and could easily contextualize it within the current food policy landscape. I definitely would have felt a little overwhelmed without that knowledge. I also felt empowered to ask specific, in-depth questions which, if you’ve had class with me maybe isn’t a surprise haha, but at a conference with ~professional academics~ I would normally be a bit quieter.

Ariana Gunderson chaired the session "Place and Time in food Memory: Migration and Nostalgia. " Panelists included fellow BU Gastronomy student Esther Martin, as well as Marken Kehren fro Loras College and Caroline Erb-Medina from City University of New York.
Ariana Gunderson chaired the session “Place and Time in food Memory: Migration and Nostalgia. ” Panelists included fellow BU Gastronomy student Esther Martin, as well as Marken Kehren from Loras College and Caroline Erb-Medina from City University of New York.

What advice would you have for a gastronaut considering attending future ASFS conferences? Any dos or don’ts?

Esther: Definitely submit a proposal, even if you don’t have an idea for a paper yet. Almost
everyone changes a bit beforehand, and many people present new research ideas that aren’t finished or fully formed. If you can, meet the people you admire. Use social media as a way to reach grad students and young professionals. And have business cards! Even if they’re quick ones from Zazzle, they’ll have all your contact info on them so people can follow up with you.

Alex: Go! No matter where you are in your degree tenure and no matter if you plan to pursue academia or not, if you are able to attend this conference, you will not regret it. Presenting your own research is great practice and this is not an environment where you will be beat down if you haven’t considered something or read a specific work. Even if you don’t present your data, this is one of the two conferences (so I’m told) where the major academic work of re-figuring the food system to be more just, equitable, and sustainable is presented and teased out. (The other one is the Rural Sociology conference apparently). Anyone who is wanting to delve into food policy or food justice work will benefit to know what’s on the cutting edge of this research.

Ariana: Go if you can! Make it happen, you won’t regret it. Here are some tips: Before you go, look through the program of presenters and highlight any panels you know you want to attend (look for names you recognize).  Bring business cards if you have them (but if you don’t do not worry).  Prepare a three-sentence description of your research interests (vague is okay!) because people will ask you when you meet them. There are (limited) funding sources available from ASFS and BU (reach out to me or Barbara for more details) to help defray costs.  If you join ASFS this year (2018) you are eligible to apply for funding from ASFS to attend the 2019 conference!

Guinea Pigs and Salchipapas and Potato Soup, Oh My!

By brotgerJune 25th, 2018

Students in Dr. Karen Metheny’s Summer Term course, Anthropology of Food (MET ML 641) are contributing guest posts this month. Today’s post is from Madeline V. Long.

Gineau pigs on the grill at a market in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
Gineau pigs on the grill at a market in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

In March, I traveled to Vilcabamba, Ecuador, to visit my parents who were living there with friends for the winter. In regard to food, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew from talking to my dad that there would be plenty of guinea pig to eat, but beyond that offering, which I politely did not try, I had very few preconceived notions on what Ecuadorian food and cuisine comprised.

Vilcabamba is a small village in the southern region of Ecuador and is a sort of melting pot of expatriates. Because of this, there are a broad range of foods available to please many palates. When my parents picked me up from the airport, they had Pain Au Chocolate from the local French bakery for us to enjoy on our ride back to the village. For lunch, we went to a café that offered falafel and curries among other vegan and vegetarian things. That evening, we dined at a sort of western cowboy themed restaurant where I had surprisingly good pizza margherita and my mom had pasta primavera. Needless to say, these were not the kinds of foods I expected to be eating.

While in Vilca, as the locals call it, the most traditionally Ecuadorian dish I had was Salchipapas, a hot dog on top of French fries served with ketchup and mayonnaise. This dish is actually a popular street food originating from Lima, Peru, and has spread to other parts of Latin America like Ecuador and Boliva over the years.

Salchipapas -- hot dog and French fries served with ketchup and mayonnaise -- is a popular street food in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.
Salchipapas — hot dog and French fries served with ketchup and mayonnaise — is a popular street food in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.

It wasn’t until we were in the larger city of Cuenca that we would visit Tiesto’s, one of very few restaurants in the country that offers Ecuadorian food. After we decided on the tasting menu, our waiter brought out ten small dishes, each filled with different varieties of stewed hot peppers, pickled vegetables, and other condiments to be eaten with bread and the meal we were about to have. Aside from these delicious accompaniments, the highlight of the meal was the Ecuadoran Potato Soup made with potatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, annatto, milk, cheese, and cilantro. We also had scrambled eggs with corn, sweet potato dumplings, and grilled meat.

Traditional Ecuadorian potato soup with cheese and avocado served at Tiesto's in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Traditional Ecuadorian potato soup with cheese and avocado served at Tiesto’s in Cuenca, Ecuador.

While this restaurant is considered one of the best in Cuenca and Ecuador, it did not seem to be frequented by locals, most likely because it was more expensive than most places. How authentically Ecuadorian of an experience was eating at this restaurant if the only Ecuadorian people there were the ones working?  I found myself thinking about the differences in culture and wondering if a local wanted to go out for traditional Ecuadorian food, would they be able to? Or, is that kind of food something they would only enjoy in their home, made by themselves, friends, or family? Here in New England, if someone wants to go out for dinner and enjoy regional cuisine, the options are endless. Why is it that in some countries, going out to eat means enjoying a cuisine different than your own and in others it might mean enjoying something familiar?

Summer Course Spotlight: Local to Global Food Values: Policy, Practice, and Performance

By brotgerJune 7th, 2018

Local to Global Food Values: Policy, Practice, and Performance will be offered through Boston University’s Summer Term 2. This class will meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings, beginning on July 2 with a final class on August 8. To register, please visit .


What are “good” foods and trustworthy standards and measurements of value? Who regulates or labels claims such as  “local,” “natural,” “sustainable,” or “(non)GMO” and why should consumers care? These are the basic policy (government), practice (food-industry), and performance (case study) issues course participants systematically probe and debate during this six-week Summer Term II BU Gastronomy seminar. Each week clarifies and compares distinct environmental, economic, cultural, political, and nutritional frameworks of value.  Readings, discussions, and hands-on exercises aim to develop professional and personal knowledge and skills for those working in food research, production, marketing, or advocacy, or more generally interested in understanding the science and technology, language and cultural politics, guiding U.S. and global food systems.  The course is open to master’s level or advanced undergraduates.

Ellen_MesserEllen Messer is an anthropologist and culinary historian with an extensive background in food policy and food justice issues. Her research interests encompass cross-cultural perspectives on human right to food; biocultural determinants of food and nutrition intake; sustainable food systems (with special emphasis on the roles of NGOs); and the cultural history of nutrition, agriculture, and food science, including the impacts of biotechnology on hunger. She has authored and co-authored several books on food policy, including Who’s Hungry? And How Do We Know? Food Shortage, Poverty and Deprivation (United Nations Free Press, 1998). Previously she was Director of the World Hunger Program at Brown University and a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Messer is a Lecturer in Gastronomy at Boston University and has current faculty affiliations at the Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and at Brandeis University’s Department of Anthropology.

Anthropology of Food: A Selection of Final Projects

Sarah Faith made Icelandic rye bread.
Sarah Faith made Icelandic rye bread.


Sarit Sadras-Rubinstein made Haupia (coconut pudding) to talk about the Hawaiian Luau.
Sarit Sadras-Rubinstein made Haupia (coconut pudding) to talk about the Hawaiian Luau.


Ruben Martinez made Iskiate, a drink made from chia seeds, lemon, honey, and water, that is made by the Raråmuri Indians of Mexico.
Ruben Martinez made Iskiate, a drink made from chia seeds, lemon, honey, and water, that is made by the Raråmuri Indians of Mexico.


Olga Rishevsky made Ful Medames, a dish made from fava beans) and Adida (a type of porridge made of sorghunm or millet) from Sudan.
Olga Rishevsky made Ful Medames, a dish made from fava beans) and Adida (a type of porridge made of sorghunm or millet) from Sudan.

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Food Mapping: Revealing the Unseen

Written by Sarit Sadras Rubenstein for Anthropology of Food

“Food mapping is an image-based approach to research that pays attention to the way people relate to food in the interaction of senses, emotions, and environments” (Marte 2007).

Food mapping is an interesting assignment students take during “Anthropology of Food” class. Food Mapping is a tool, that even though it is relatively simple to apply, reveals many interesting things, much of which would not be revealed otherwise.

For my mapping assignment place I chose a local Target store, one that I know pretty well. That specific store has a Target-cafe corner with two vendors: Starbucks and Pizza Hut. Every time I bought coffee at Starbucks I always wondered if and when people buy at the Pizza Hut place. It always seemed empty… That is why when we had the chance to observe a place and map it, I chose to observe this specific cafe corner. In my observation I was hoping to learn more about how people interact at this specific cafe corner, in relation to the two vendors, the environment and to other people in general.

It is good to start with a description of the area being mapped. Examples of such description can include where each vendor is located, how many sitting tables are there, what colors are being used as decorations, and anything that can help the researcher get familiar with the space. In my specific observation the cafe shop is located at the edge of the store, as with most of Target’s cafes, where one can walk in and go straight to the cafe without walking through the aisles. Facing the cafe space, Starbucks is placed on the left side and Pizza Hut on the right (see a map and pictures attached). Overall I would argue the environment is not as inviting as it could have been. The tables and chairs are made of metal, giving a ’cold’ and unpleasant look and feeling. It seems as it matches the decor of the Pizza Hut spot more than it fits the Starbucks one.


For the process of the observing, I arrived at the cafe around 10:45 am. I chose the table that is furthest away from the entry, which gave me a great view of the whole cafe space. I started to map the cafe area, making three copies so I would have extra copies in case I needed it. By the time I finished, it was almost 11:15, the tables were available and no people at either the coffee or the pizza lines. That didn’t last too long though, since at that very minute new customers started to show up, so I started my observation. All the people interactions I observed that morning were detailed by the order they arrived to the cafe, and were drawn on the maps I have created, as you can see at the example attached.


Once the observation is done, the interesting part starts: analyzing the data and see what can we learn from that exercise. Some conclusions from my observation were quite surprising. For example, the vast majority of the customers were women, unaccompanied. During my observation I noticed only three men, out of which only one actually bought a drink at Starbucks. All the other customers were women. This is a very interesting observation. It is worth investing more time and other observations during other days and times of the day. If this is a repeating phenomenon it can be used as a great marketing tool to the cafe and Starbucks.

Another interesting conclusion I noticed was regarding the shopping carts. I can definitely argue that there is a shopping cart parking problem while buying at the cafe. There is no organized and defined place to park shopping carts while waiting. This situation results in people blocking the line (mostly the line for Starbucks) or placing their carts in other people’s way. I think it is worth investing more time and think of a creative idea to reorganize the space in order to improve this issue. These are just two single examples out of few conclusions this observation taught me
about that specific environment and the people who attend it.


One of my findings was regarding the number of tables and sitting spots at the cafe. It seems as if the number of tables is suitable for the amount of customers who choose to sit down at the cafe. That said, this note needs to be observed again, especially during times when families shop with there kids and might need more space to sit down and have a short snack break. In such times there may be shortage in tables or chairs. Also, there is a point to argue what would be the outcome if the cafe looked a little more inviting? Would this lead to people hanging out more? In a such a scenario, would the number of tables and chair suffice the location or would it need to be adjusted?

Obviously some of the questions that arise from this exercise are very interesting but still theoretical. To answer such questions, more research and observations needs to be done. Such research will probably take us outside of the academic world, since it will have to take into account the goals and objectives the organization, Target in this case, defines for itself.
As Marte (2007) claims, food maps are useful not only for food studies, but also for other kinds of research. I can surely see how food maps can come handy for such organizations as a marketing tool and a strategic tool. I wonder if and to what extent big organizations, such as Target, use such tools, as food mapping, to learn and streamline their customers’ experience.

Marte, Lidia. 2007. Foodmaps: Tracing Boundaries of “Home” Through Food Relations. Food & Foodways 15(3-4): 261-289.


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What is America Food?

Written by Olga Rizhevsky for MET ML 641, Anthropology of Food

When discussing ‘American Food’, it seems one of two main schools of thought is prevalent: either the clear understanding that burgers, pizza, and apple pie are emblematic of the country; or that we live in a nation with mixed cuisine from all over the world, and we create our own by borrowing from abroad. Extremists might argue there is no such thing as American food all together. Why did our cuisine become to hard to define, and is that a problem? A brief consideration of a few topics below further explores this inquiry.

The Great American Menu, Ranking Regional Foods Across the U.S.

For one, America as a country has long cultivated staple crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton- plus a whole ton of cattle. Consolidation via industrialization of farming land and operations has increased the popularity of these foods, often at the expense of non-monoculture crops cultivated on small family farms; the biggest support of this phenomena has been through formal government subsidies. However, how often do you actually see someone consuming plain corn (whose authenticity is infact Mexican) or soybeans, perhaps in the form of tofu? The reality is that corn and soy are often ingredients in other foods, typically ones that have been processed, artificially sweetened, and would be considered ‘junk food’ by most. We are beginning to see label-conscious consumers strive to better understand what’s in their food, and many are going beyond to be educated on its origins.

Second, an emerging ‘foodie’ movement, particularly in urban areas including Boston, has lent itself to an overwhelming focus on foods that are interesting and picturesque- an attitude of discovery implying sophistication. To each their own with the definition of a foodie, but given its apparent over-use, it begs the question as to whether or not everyone is a foodie (in other words, a lover and/or consumer of food?). On this topic, in a 2014 NYT article, Mark Bittman challenges the term by advocating that it should pivot more toward those who are conscious in their food consumption, rather than just find joy in it; “it might be useful to sketch out what “caring about good food” means, and to try to move “foodie” to a place where it refers to someone who gets beyond fun to pay attention to how food is produced and the impact it has.”[i]

Third, the politics of food in the US leave consumers with much to ponder, which is constantly changing. A generally confusing climate in regard to policy, nutrition, and environmental implications is ever-growing. We are consumers and producers of foods that are internationally traded, at times when NAFTA and immigration-reform are heavily under scrutiny. We shift from loathing carbs, to fat, to sugar, at a time when obesity rates are on the rise. Perhaps conflicts within one’s ‘food identity’, compromising self-expression, are an extension of broader confusion regarding what is authentic American food.

Despite lack of consensus, building awareness regarding ‘what is American food’ is in itself enlightening. Consider the eateries that surround BU (Chinese, Thai, Indian) in the proximity of quintessential Fenway Park—or Quincy Market across the street from the North End. Also consider the cravings you have when seeking ‘ethnic’ food (perhaps another ambiguous term to define). Living in a nation so populated by immigrant traditions and influences, it surely is a challenge to identify with a single defining cuisine.

[i] Mark Bittman, “Rethinking the Word ‘Foodie’.” June 24, 2014.

UNESCO: Protecting Cultural Heritages Worldwide

Written by Sarah Faith

If you’ve ever been to France, then you know that a baguette from a boulangerie in Paris, Lyon, or Provence has an air of je ne sais quoi about it. More than four hundred years of practice – and a revolution – have gone into the making of the iconic French baguette. It is a staple food, a part of daily French life – morning, midday and in the evening. A veritable symbol of the country.

The traditional baguette is protected under a 1993 French law. To truly be considered a “traditional French baguette,” the bread must be made on the premises from which it is sold, it must be made with four ingredients only (wheat flour, water, yeast and salt), it cannot be frozen at any stage, and it cannot contain additives or preservatives. Making a traditional baguette requires more than the ability to follow a recipe. It requires practiced skill.

Photo courtesy of CNN

However, times are changing. Many French are no longer eating baguette three times a day as eating patterns change. Fewer bakeries are making baguettes in the traditional manner, often relying on frozen bread in an effort to cut costs.

Now, in an effort to protect the quality of and skill that goes into the making of the baguette, President Emmanuel Macron is supporting a bid by the National Confederation of French Bakers. Their goal is protection of the baguette as a “world treasure” by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Established in 2008, the UNESCO Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage include oral traditions, social practices, performing arts, festive events, rituals, knowledge/practices concerning nature, and knowledge/skills to produce traditional crafts that are recognized by communities around the world as being representative of their cultural heritage. The items on the lists are passed down from generation to generation. They provide a sense of identity and community.

UNESCO has inscribed heritages from around the world, including Uilleann piping (Ireland), the Tahteeb stick game (Egypt), and the Yama, Hoko, and Yatai float festivals (Japan). These heritages help to nourish both cultural diversity and human creativity and, according to UNESCO, “can help to meet many contemporary challenges of sustainable development such as social cohesion, education, food security, health and sustainable management of natural resources.” In granting the list designation, UNESCO aims to ensure that intangible cultural heritages worldwide are better protected and awareness of them promoted.

As of this writing, there are 470 items corresponding to 117 countries on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage lists. And food plays a role, with a number of cultural foods, cuisines and practices represented. Curious to learn more, I dug a little deeper. Below you’ll find a snapshot of my food-related findings – one from each of the ten years that the lists have been in existence.

2008: Indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead (Mexico)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2009: Oku-noto no Aenokoto (Japan)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2010: Gastronomic meal of the French

Photo courtesy of UNESCO 

2011: Ceremonial Keşkek tradition (Turkey)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2012: Cherry festival in Sefrou (Morocco)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2013: Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2014: Lavash, the preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2015: Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2016: Beer Culture in Belgium

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

2017: The Art of Neapolitan ‘Pizzaiuolo’ (Italy)

Photo courtesy of UNESCO

As for whether the French baguette will be given the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage designation, we will have to wait and see. After the National Confederation of French Bakers submits its nomination, they must then wait for the annual meeting of the Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. During this meeting, the Committee will evaluate this and other nominations and decide whether or not to inscribe the French baguette to the lists for safeguarding.

For more information about the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage lists visit

Sarah Faith is a student in the Gastronomy program and marketing and communications professional specializing in food and agricultural at CONE in Boston.

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The Circus of the Senses: A Symposium on Food & the Humanities

Article and images by Ariana Gunderson

The Culinary Institute of America hosted the Circus of the Senses: A Symposium on Food & the Humanities this past Monday, a feast for both mind and tongue.  The day-long symposium demonstrated the best of CIA’s Applied Food Studies program, combining traditional academic papers, collaborative discussion, and a surrealist banquet inspired by Salvador Dalí.  Here I’ll share my experience and thoughts on the symposium.

Upon arrival at CIA’s immaculate campus, symposium attendees were served a light breakfast; I was quickly learning that at the Culinary Institute of America, food is the starting point.  The conference got started with two sessions of roundtables, in which conference attendees signed up for small discussion groups.  The leader or leaders of each roundtable presented some of their work or media to which the group would then respond in discussion.  I attended and very much enjoyed “Tracing and Tasting Aromatic Images in Cinema,” a roundtable led by Dr. Sophia Siddique Harvey, of Vassar’s Film Department.  Dr. Harvey shared a short film clip and her concept of an ‘aromatic image’ – when the audiovisual medium of film evokes the proximal senses.  Our lively group discussion was shaped by the contributions of a food stylist, whose career is centered around the creation of such images, and academics from French, Philosophy, Creative Writing, and Food Studies departments.  By starting the symposium with a discussion to which all attendees contribute, I felt invigorated and directly participatory in the rest of the day. Following a lunch break at any of CIA’s many student-staffed restaurants, the afternoon consisted of two traditional academic panels.  All presentations covered food and the senses (very relevant to the BU community!) but from a wide range of disciplines.  Chef Jonathan Zearfoss presented on Patterns in Tasting Menu Design, Dr. Yael Raviv of NYU spoke about food as a medium in avant-garde art, and Dr. Greg de S. Maurice gave a talk on multisensory taste and national identity in Japan.

My favorite paper was presented by Dr. Andrew Donnelly of Loyola University’s history department, “Re-experiencing Rome: The “Next” Apicius.”  Dr. Donnelly spoke with humor and rich historical background on the ancient Roman diet and its reincarnation at a Chicago tasting menu, describing how in just one dinner his academic understanding of Roman history had been made sensorially experiential.  Ted Russin, the acting Dean of the School of Culinary Science & Nutrition at CIA and flavor scientist, gave punchy closing remarks in which he presented on the interconnectedness of sensorial experience in eating.

Attendees were able to immediately put Dean Russin’s presentation into practice in the final event of the symposium: the Circus of Taste, a banquet inspired by the surrealist work of Salvador Dalí and brought to vivid life by the students and faculty of the CIA.  We kicked off the feast with 59 minutes of cocktails – guests swizzled their own signature cocktail of snow, ginger, shiso, and fresno chili and nibbled on passed hors d’oeuvres as a large clock ticked away the minutes and swirling lights brought plastic lobsters in and out of focus.  As I stood at a table with a centerpiece of apples in a basket (each apple bearing a fake Dalí mustache), I accepted round after round of such surreal delicacies as deviled quail egg, rosé gelée with caviar, savory cheesecake with strawberry pearl boba, and spicy avocado mousse on puff pastry.  Once the 59 minutes (exactly) had passed, we moved into the dining hall, spritzed with a Dalí perfume as we did so.

Once again, the dining hall was sensorially overwhelming.  This feast was a celebration of Dalí’s work and especially the cookbook he wrote to memorialize the lavish dinner parties he hosted with his wife, Gala. Recreations of Dalí’s artwork filled each corner of the room, and Un Chien Andalou played on three walls. Each seat had a placemat of a different material: tin foil, fur, bubble wrap, sandpaper.  Spread down the winding table were musical instruments; guests were instructed to play different instruments when they experienced different tastes.  Crawfish in consommé, the first course, was the most impactful for my sensory experience.  Dalí’s love for crawfish resulted in several recipes boasting the crustacean in his cookbook, Les Diner de Gala, including a memorable Tower of Crawfish 

In our first course bowls, a whole crawfish swam in soup, to be cracked by the diner.  This was my first time eating a crustacean, and the sensorial impact of cracking open the exo-skeleton was quite powerful. Roquefort Pasta and Hanging Beef (accompanied by paired wines) followed, and the atmosphere in the room rose to a festive pitch as guests donned food fascinators and shook the noisemakers.  My tablemate remarked, “it’s like a really weird wedding,” in which the couple we were celebrating was Gala and Salvador.  The final course, a dessert, was called BEETING Heart – a beet mousse, molded into a heart-shaped beet drawn from the earth (represented by crushed cookies and chocolate sorbet).  Walking the halls of the CIA, I had seen the students preparing various parts of these dishes, and I was blown away by the impression they left in the context of the banquet.  The final touch on the evening was the after-dinner coffee – delivered via espresso bubbles.

This symposium brought together what excites me most about the field of Food Studies.  The range of activities throughout the day demonstrate the multiple forms food scholarship can take: collaborative discussion, panel presentations, and creating and consuming food itself. The community of rigorously interdisciplinary food scholars represents the breadth and richness of food studies.  I anxiously await the next symposium hosted by the masterful team at the Culinary Institute of America.

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Course Spotlight: Food & Visual Culture

Images, whether still or moving, are all around us and have become an increasing part of the modern landscape. The result of this proliferation of visual culture is that our understanding of the world is progressively mediated by images. So, not only have the products of visual media become more and more a part of our lives, but vision and seeing have become even more important to how we know and understand the world. But the visual does more than simply present the world to us, it can shape how we understand and relate to that world. Studying media, therefore, is a way for us to study ourselves and better understand our culture, our social and political values and our ideologies.

Within the past decade there has been a notable growth in food-related cultural activity on TV, in films, books and digital media (Twitter, websites, blogs, video games, etc.). Food has become, both figuratively and quite literally, more visible in our lives.  But what is behind this increased focus on food? And, how has it affected people’s expectations around how food is produced and eaten? What affect, if any, has it had on the way we eat and cook?

The goal of this course is to examine depictions of food and cooking within visual culture and to analyze the ways in which they reflect and shape our understanding of the meaning of food. To this end, we will explore how food and cooking are depicted as expressions of culture, politics and group or personal identity via a multitude of visual materials, including, but not limited to: TV programs, magazines, cook books, food packaging, advertising, photography, online and digital media, and works of art.

A good portion of class time will be given to discussing the readings in combination with participatory, in-depth analysis of the visual material. The class will also take a field trip to a food photography studio as well as a culinary tour of Boston’s Chinatown.

MET ML 671, Food and Visual Culture, will be offered during Summer Term 1 (May 22 to June 29, 2018) and will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:30 to 9:00 PM. Registration information can be found here.

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Celebrate Pi(e) Day with Boston Cream Pie!

On Wednesday, March 14, the Public Library of Brookline at Coolidge Corner will be hosting an event in celebration of Pi(e) Day, highlighting none other than New England’s Boston Cream Pie!

Join Justine, Adrian, and Mashfiq, three BU Gastronomy students, from 4:30-6:00 p.m. at 31 Pleasant Street in Brookline as they talk about the history and origin of this famous New England dessert and walk us through how it has changed and evolved through the decades. Come prepared to sample a few from local eateries! See below for more details.

Pi Day Celebration

A Brookline Eats! series event

Boston Cream Pie. Massachusetts’s state dessert. Not a pie at all, in fact, but two light-as-air sponge cake layers sandwiching a rich and delicate pastry cream, and topped with a thin glaze of chocolate. When made properly, the dessert seems to defy all laws of gravity.

As the story goes, the simultaneously simple and decadent cake was invented by a chef from Parker House Restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts in preparation for the restaurant’s 1856 grand opening. True of nearly every food-related origin story, there is much debate surrounding the question: where did the Boston Cream Pie come from? No matter which story you believe, it is hard to argue the Boston Cream Pie’s position as a quintessential New England dessert. Over the years, it has inspired a seemingly endless number of variations from donuts to an ice cream flavor to a local spin on beer. It’s easy to see that the Boston Cream Pie has come a long way since its debut.

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