Boston University’s Programs in Food and Wine and MLA in Gastronomy Program are pleased to announce the following lectures scheduled for the Fall 2017 semester. Lectures in the Pépin Series are free and open to the public, but registration with Boston University’s Programs in Food and Wine is required.
The Cooking Gene, with Michael Twitty
Tuesday, October 24 at 6pm College of Arts and Sciences, 725 Commonwealth Ave, Room 224
Renowned culinary historian, Michael W. Twitty, offers a fresh perspective on our most divisive cultural issue, race, using the popular but complicated lens of Southern cuisine and food culture. To do so he traced his ancestry—both black and white—through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom. Southern food is integral to the American culinary tradition, yet the question of who “owns” it is one of the most provocative touch points in our ongoing struggles over race. His mission, to re-create the culinary genius of Black colonial and antebellum chefs sits side by side with revealing truth that is more than skin deep—the power that food has to bring the kin of the enslaved and their former slaveholders to the table, where they can discover the real America together.
Food on the Page, with Megan Elias
Wednesday, November 8 at 6pm College of Arts and Sciences Building, 725 Commonwealth Ave, Room 224
What’s in a cookbook? More than repositories of recipes, cookbooks play a role in the creation of taste on both a personal and national level. From Fannie Farmer to the Chez Panisse Cookbook to food blogs, American cookbooks have commented on national cuisine while also establishing distinct taste cultures. In Food on the Page, Megan Elias explores what it means to take cookbooks seriously as a genre of writing that is as aspirational as it is prescriptive.
Remembering German-Jewish Culture through its Culinary Traditions, with Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman
Wednesday, November 29 at 6pm
College of Arts and Sciences, 725 Commonwealth Ave, Room 224
What happens to a food tradition when its culture starts to vanish? The advent of the Nazi era brought about the demise of 1000 years of Jewish life in Germany and its cuisine, which differs greatly from the Eastern European one that is generally the accepted definition of Jewish food. This food tradition lives on in the kitchens of some German Jews and in the memories of many others around the world. This talk, by a mother-daughter author team with a German-Jewish background, will address issues of food and memory, food as cultural identity, and preserving and documenting traditional recipes.
“The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and a History of a Cuisine” by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman, Brandies University Press
It is just about back-to-school season, when the Gastronomy Program will welcome a new group of students.. Here a fresh batch of their bios and photos. Enjoy getting to know them!
Ariana Gunderson grew up in the Boston area and looks forward to returning for her Gastronomy MLA at BU. After graduating with a BA in Egyptology from Brown University, Ariana biked to brunch as often as possible while working in DC as a strategy consultant. She then completed a yearlong State Department fellowship in Germany, studying anthropology and excavating a medieval castle. Most recently, Ariana lived in Mexico City, where she continued her consulting work and ate many a tamal. While at BU, Ariana hopes to study refugee and migrant foodways.
Originally from a small bilingual mill town in Northern Maine on the border of French-speaking Canada, Justine Martin inherited her deep love of food and bringing people together from her grandmother. Over seemingly endless buffets of food at countless holidays, family gatherings, and town celebrations, she saw how her grandmother’s French Acadian cooking brought people from all walks of life together.
It was this upbringing and her relationship with her grandmother that first sparked her interest in the powerful role food plays in our lives and in our interactions with others—next door and around the globe. Now, Justine spends nearly all of her spare time cooking, eating, researching, and talking about food and is excited to join the Gastronomy program this fall to connect with others who share her passion. In bringing together her love of food, writing, and culture, she seeks to contribute to the world of food writing and journalism in a unique and meaningful way.
Justine earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from the University of Maine at Fort Kent and spent two years as a 2nd grade and health teacher in Southern Maine. She then moved to the Boston area, where she works as a university development writer and lives with her husband and two fur balls: Ambrose, the moody yet secretly affectionate cat, and Mabel, the crazy-pants clown of a Boston Terrier.
Meghan Russell grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and went to Penn State University, graduating with a degree in History. Since then she has lived in Washington D.C. and Boston working in consulting and technology.
Meghan always enjoyed helping in the kitchen and going to the grocery store and famers market with her mom growing up, but her passion for food really took off after graduating college. After years of cooking for friends and family, she started her own blog (vegetableway.com) a few years ago as a way and is excited to get back to posting on it more regularly.
As a way to get more involved in food advocacy issues, she started volunteering at the Daily Table, a grocery store in Dorchester, MA. At BU Meghan plans to focus on policy and business, looking for ways to address food access issues and promote local, sustainable food choices through awareness and education.
We continue our series of posts from the Anthropology of Food class (ML 641) in which students reflect on current issues, discuss assignments they have worked on, or address topics of particular interest to them. Today’s post is from Kaitlin Valli.
When I first started looking into Kazakhstan for my final project, I wasn’t sure what I’d find—I chose it a bit haphazardly, simply because the country was huge and I had realized, looking at the map, that I knew almost nothing about it. But as I looked into it, I was interested to see that a strong culture of hospitality developed there centuries ago and is still an identity marker today. The importance of sharing food and drink is a common theme across cultures, of course, but in Kazakhstan it seemed to take on another level of significance. The Kazakh language has dozens of words for different types of guests, and many proverbs referring to the blessing a guest brings to the family, which range from reverent (“If a guest comes, abundance comes with him or her”) to cautionary (“A guest sits briefly, but notices a lot”) to outright threatening (“If you don’t accept the guest, there won’t be any happiness or abundance in your home.”)
That a culture of being a good host and gracious guest evolved makes practical sense—back when people were nomadic and spread across the vast steppe, it was wise to be generous with a visitor, as a host did not know when they would need that same kind of hospitality themselves. But a guest was more than that—a visitor also meant entertainment and an excuse for a feast, as well a very necessary connection to the outside world. A guest was harbinger of nourishment of all kinds.
The russification of Kazakhstan means that even today, after attempts at language revival, only 74% of its citizens understand the spoken Kazakh language, while 94% understand Russian (Lillis 2017). And yet, after years of adapting to Soviet rule, the traditional value of hospitality persists. It has become a deeply intertwined aspect of Kazakh identity and culture, to the point where the ability to be a good host or hostess is considered an important criteria for judgment.
Though the importance of hospitality has persisted, the customs around hospitality have naturally changed over time. Today, to cut down on time required, Kazakh women may turn to prepared foods instead of making their own, and alcohol consumption has decreased as a result of the increased cost of entertaining. But though traditions have evolved, especially in big cities, they are still vital. Guests should not leave without having at least tasted the meal offered, and hosts will at the very least offer tea. Using beautiful dishware is still common, and hosts will pour a little tea at a time, as pouring a large cup at once would signify that they want their guest to leave sooner.
The studies and ethnographies I encountered conclude the same thing—Kazakh people “cannot live without hospitality, without guests, without a table set and ready to receive guests” (Charkyroglu 2014, 127). But I think a woman profiled in one of my readings expressed it best: “If you can’t make a big party to celebrate your son’s engagement, then why live on this earth” (Michaels 2007, 157)?
Chakyroglu, Altynshash Kurmanali, and Botagoz Suiyerkul. 2014. “Representation of the Concept “Hospitality” in the Kazakh Language.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 136: 124-128.
Lillis, Joanna. 2017. “Kazakhstan: Astana Wants Kazakhstanis to Speak Kazakh.” EurasiaNet.org. Accessed July 21, 2017. www.eurasianet.org/node/62424
Michaels, Paula. 2007. “An Ethnohistorical Journey through Kazakh Hospitality.” In Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present, ed. Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanco, 145-159. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Dr. Karen Metheny will teach Food and Society (MET ML 712) on Thursday evenings during the fall 2017 semester, and has prepared this overview of the class.
»How do social institutions shape the way we think about food? Our ability to access food?
»How do work schedules and family dynamics shape or constrain the family meal?
»Do social classes and institutions affect the way we shop? The food we prefer?
In Food and Society, students will examine these kinds of questions and look specifically at how social groups, categories, and institutions shape, structure, or are structured by food-related practices. We will look at multiple contexts of food production, access, procurement, and consumption, including rural agricultural sites, urban homesteads, grocery shopping, CSAs, and food assistance programs. We will also examine the intersection of food practices with class, ethnicity, race, age, and gender.
We will engage in a range of exercises to explore methods (visual sociology, food chain analysis, surveys and questionnaires, interviews) that can be applied to a final research project. The research project offers students a wonderful opportunity to pursue in-depth analysis of key topics in food studies. A sample of past projects includes:
focused analysis of the role of ethnic food trucks as potential agents of taste expansion, authenticity, or cultural appropriation
food as cultural capital among millennials
a comparative study of Haymarket and Boston Public Market in the context of creating social well-being and a ‘sense of community’
the mission and sustainability of The Daily Table
the food landscape of Jamaica Plain
dinner on demand services as cultural capital
functional foods and grocery shopping through the lens of yogurt
Students have utilized Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram as sources of data, conducted surveys through Facebook, created photo essays and videos, and collected oral interviews to complete their projects. Students will also have the opportunity to hear from a number of area food scholars and activists, and we will work with Dr. Bob Cadigan from the Applied Social Sciences department to create and implement surveys and questionnaires. Hope to see you in class!
MET ML 712, Food and Society, will meet on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:45 pm, starting on September 7, 2017. Registration information can be found here.
Gastronomy Student Celine Glasier shares this post in our series “Perspectives from Anthropology of Food.”
My grandmother lives in a very small town in the south of France called Montauroux. It’s a little, quaint community that is nestled on top of a hill. There are outdoor cafes in the town center where elderly men spend their days and evenings playing pétanque, bi-weekly farmers markets, and peach orchards near-by for warm weather picking. My memories of the summers when I’d come to visit her are filled with ice cream and swimming in the nearby Mediterranean Sea. But what excited me the most about my summer visits to my grandmother’s was the open air night markets that would take place in the adjacent larger cities. Every Thursday night in July people would come together to sell their goods and socialize with each other. Each town had a different location for their markets, but they usually took place along the waterfront, with an occasional short firework display. It was the way to celebrate the summer. I remember being seven years old and feeling excitement and anticipation all day long when my grandmother would take me. And as soon as we left, I’d ask to go again next week.
Researching global night market trends for Anthropology of Food, I discovered that many cultures organize night markets. Taiwan’s proliferation and popularity of night markets is especially interesting. There are hundreds of night markets in Taiwan, and each offers its own version of snack foods called xiaochi (or small eats). Xiaochi are considered one of the most authentic forms of Taiwanese foods, and like markets themselves, there are hundreds of them. They typically come fried, or in a soup broth, or on a stick, are small, bite-sized, and generously seasoned with condiments. A chef in Taiwan named Chuang Pao-hua is preserving the art of xiaochi and Taiwanese cuisine by teaching locals and foreign student how to cook xiaochi with gu zhao wei (the Taiwanese traditional flavor preserved through generations of recipes).
Xiaochi are unique because they not only represent cultural identity but, for the most part, they are found solely in night markets. The originating market to which they belong is also where you can find the most authentic version, and local towns or provinces are often named after the local xiaochi dishes they serve. You can go to a night market in Taipei, and another in Tainan, and find different and distinct versions of xiaochi that embody the local flavor.
But what really drew me to understanding night markets in Taiwan was the energy they epitomize and the transformation of local space through them. Because they are often hot, crowded, and loud, night markets generate an energetic quality known as renao. Renoa translates into “a manifestation of the human flavor that is generated through enthusiasm and human interactions” (Yu 2006, 132). It’s the collective human energy you get when the senses are heightened and life is being enjoyed.
In this altered atmosphere, people can ignore cultural rules for appropriate behavior, are allowed to act leisurely, and become renewed through experiencing pleasure in their daily life. People act at ease. Night markets provide a sensorial experience similar to that from participating in a religious space. In a church or temple, your senses are altered through incense or various smells, meditation, organ music, and colorful visual representations or statues. Night markets alter your senses as well, and stepping into one, you enter another world.
Night markets are also important because they serve as a place for public activity and socialization. The energy that transforms a space that’s designated for one purpose during the day serves a different purpose at night. In Taiwan, the night is a time for socializing. Walking through night markets is one of the most popular nighttime activities in Taiwan, as it is a chance to be seen by others and satisfy social needs. Through the experience of heightening the senses of taste, sound, and tactile heat, from cooking and from other bodies, night markets serve as a means of communicating Taiwanese identity, socialization and commensality. As an ethnic group, gathering communally allows for communicating traditions, folklore, values, and cuisine. Night markets are one way that Taiwanese culture has been able to create a divergent culture and preserve identity. Night markets and xiaochi are a way of proliferating and preserving authentic Taiwanese culture. They are for the people.
When I think back now on the night markets I went to with my grandmother, I realize that part of their appeal was the vastness and richness of colors and smells. The scent of roast chicken skewers, corn grilling, and fresh breads and sugary pastries mixed with the sea breeze, the sounds of people congregating and conversing, and the sight of colorful snack foods and icy summer drinks are all deeply embedded in my memory. It was a place in which I was allowed to indulge myself and forget the rules. So what if I had two desserts? Under the cloak of the night, and with my grandmother, different rules applied.
Yu, Shuenn-Der. 2004. “Hot and Noisy.” In The Minor Arts of Daily Life: Popular Culture in Taiwan, ed. David K. Jordan, Andrew D. Morris, and Marc L. Moskowitz, 129-149. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.