Congratulations to Gastronomy candidate Valeria Ryan. She successfully defended her thesis “Umami, Evolution and Nutritional Inequality” on May 7, 2013.
Post and photos by Emily Contois
While many students have completed a thesis as part of their studies in the Boston University Gastronomy Program, Katie Dolph is the first to complete the new eight credit thesis, a challenging endeavor that includes a year’s worth of research and a formal defense process.
Katie’s research employs an interdisciplinary approach to investigate the role of sustainability, which integrates reverence for nature with cultural and economic factors, in the development of a unique set of winemaking practices that distinguish the Willamette Valley Wine industry.
Last week, Gastronomy students and faculty gathered for Katie’s thesis defense.
by Meg Jones Wall
When it came time for me to start considering my final project for the Gastronomy program, I admit that I was completely overwhelmed. I knew that I wanted to use my photography skills and my interest in food styling to create some kind of visual project. It took several months of stressing, and a lot of help from my peers and advisors, but eventually I worked it out — I would research historic food still life paintings, then turn them into modern photographs. Having little experience with art history and still learning a lot about photography and food styling, I was pretty intimidated with my project. However, the delight of being able to play with food, figure out how to recreate these stunning (and extremely specific) props, and learning to manipulate my images in the proper way was too tempting to pass up.
The ultimate purpose of the project was to help me gain a greater understanding of the use of artistic elements in the paintings, such as composition, color, light, balance, and shape, as well as to create a visual collection of the images that could be studied and compared. After a lot of agonizing I chose three still life paintings, each featuring a glass of wine and other food items, from three different artists: Pieter Claesz, Paul Cezanne, and Georg Flegel. After researching and analyzing the paintings, I then created two photographs to accompany each one — a recreation of the original image, and an interpretative photograph done in my own artistic style. The final project was a book of the images, which includes some brief explanations and analysis, and an accompanying paper that goes into more depth on art history and the artistic elements that I focused on.
Pieter Claesz, “A Still Life with a Large Roemer, a Knife Resting on a Silver Plate Bearing a Partly-Peeled Lemon, Walnuts and Hazelnuts, on a Marble Ledge”
I won’t lie – creating these photographs was no easy task. Many of the props were so period-specific that to purchase replicas would be far too expensive, especially considering the amount I was already spending on food, plates, fabric, wine…I was forced to create goblets with glasses I already had, coupled with cuff bracelets, aluminum foil, paint, and a lot of imagination. Other items were simply impossible to find, so I had to be creative and develop substitutes that wouldn’t be so different from the original as to be distracting.
Paul Cezanne, “Still Life with Bread and Eggs”
Taking the photographs themselves was almost as challenging as the preparations — I would shift all of my items a centimeter, then take 20 more shots, obsessing over the tiny details that could completely change the composition of the image. If the balance was off or the color was too dull, it was like a blaring spotlight on my error, too wrong to be ignored. But the final photos are worth all the time and effort it took to create them. I modernized the images, using my own style, in the process, improving my photography and emphasizing my personal photographic signature.
Georg Flegel, “Snack with Fried Eggs”
Meg Jones Wall graduated from the MLA Gastronomy program in January, and is currently developing the food section for an online magazine that will be launching in the fall. When she’s not writing, Meg can be found wandering farmer’s markets, developing recipes, and photographing everything in sight for her food blog, ginger-snapped.
by Danielle Ceribo and Lucia Austria
It’s a given that incoming gastronomy students have a passion for food, but how do students about to finish the program take their experiences and change their food passion into a food movement? Students who finish the program with a thesis paper write about something close to their heart, but go through weeks of frustrations and personal reflections to get to a finished, well-researched piece of work. Graduating student Danielle Ceribo can tell you that developing a thesis is hardly easy, but her driving passion for food culture in Guam helped her navigate through her last semester at BU.
Guamanian food culture is a significant part of Danielle’s identity. She was born and raised in Guam, and left after high school to live in Hawaii and eventually, California. Danielle began to try dishes from different cultures, like Mexican and Philippine, and noticed how similar some dishes were to the ones she grew up with:
“There’s a lot…like ceviche. It’s pretty much the same as kelaguan, any protein–chicken, shrimp, fish, spam, octopus, beef…there’s an acid, usually lemon or vinegar, Hot pepper, onion, and then usually, depending on which kind, there’s grated coconut. There are all these similarities to different foods that I thought was unique to Guam. I remember visiting family in the bay area in California and my uncle would always beg my mom to make it. I thought it was this special thing that nobody else outside of Guam ever got. That was the starting point…”
From that point, Danielle began to question the role of colonization and globalization on Guam’s food culture. Guam is a U.S. territory located in the Pacific Ocean and a part of the Mariana Islands of Micronesia. Native Chamorro, colonial Spanish, and American influences shape Guam’s rich history. Danielle developed many questions concerning the Guamanian and Chamorro cuisine, and focused some of her class papers on answering those questions. She wrote a history paper on changes in diet of indigenous people pre and post European contact, comparing contemporary and colonial Spanish cookbooks. She acquired research skills through her ethnography and anthropology classes and spent three weeks in Guam developing an ethnographic report. Danielle’s personal experiences, classes, and directed study helped her get to her final argument:
“…the local diet of Guam has evolved to incorporate foods from cultures it has come into contact with through colonization, immigration, and tourism, yet still maintains Chamorro/Guamanian identity as a result of Guam’s geographic location and tradition of conviviality, suggesting that there are limits on the homogenizing effects of colonization on local culture.”
According to Danielle, much of her historic research on Guam and Micronesia is written in the view of Western-centric historians. “The voice of indigenous populations isn’t there. Micronesian studies are lumped together in one topic. There’s a lot of pride in Guam for being Guamanian or Chamorro.” For Danielle, writing about Guam foodways is “giving voice to a population that people don’t understand.”
Danielle is a gastronomy student with an undergraduate degree in Food & Nutrition from San Diego State University. She will be presenting her paper, “Soy Sauce and Coconut Milk: The Effects of Colonialism, Globalization and Diaspora on Guamanian Foodways,” at this summer’s ASFS conference at NYU.