Conference Abstracts Workshop & Potluck

Interested in submitting a proposal for the 2018 ASFS conference? Not sure how to group papers into panel presentations? Curious about where you can submit your academic work? How does one write a proposal, anyway??

Join us for a potluck while we work on writing our conference abstracts on Wednesday, Dec. 13th from 6pm – 8pm in Fuller 109.

Please email Barbara at brotger@bu.edu if you plan on attending.

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Spring 2018 Pepin Lecture Lineup

The Boston University Programs in Food and Wine have announced the following titles in the Spring 2018 Pépin Lecture Series in Food Studies, Gastronomy, and the Culinary Arts.

February 13th: Julie Guthman

UCSC professor Julie Guthman will be giving a lecture on her research on the California strawberry industry. You can read more about her recent talk on New Food Activism at Harvard here.

According to news.ucsc.edu, Guthman is a geographer who has been widely recognized for her study of organic farming and sustainable agriculture in California, as well as for her critical analysis of the obesity epidemic. She is an alumna of UC Santa Cruz (B.A., sociology, 1979) who joined the faculty in 2003.

March 29th: Jonathan Deutsch

James Beard Foundation Impact Fellow and Professor at Drexel Jonathan Deutsch will be giving a lecture on his work repurposing food waste.

According to drexel.edu, Deutsch joined Drexel from Kingsborough Community College-CUNY, where he served as professor and founding director of the culinary arts program as well as deputy chair of the department of tourism and hospitality. He previously worked at CUNY Graduate Center as professor of public health and founding director of the food studies concentration. Deutsch’s research interests include social and cultural aspects of food, recipe and product development and culinary education. He received his doctorate in food studies and food management from New York University.

He is the author of six food studies books, including Barbeque: A Global History, Food Studies: An Introduction to Research Methods, and Jewish American Food Culture.

April 11th: Ken Albala

Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific and Director of the Food Studies MA program in San Francisco. He will be talking about his new book, Noodle Soup: Recipes, Techniques, Obsession.

“Every day, noodle shops around the globe ladle out quick meals that fuel our go-go lives. But Ken Albala has a mission: to get YOU in the kitchen making noodle soup. This primer offers the recipes and techniques for mastering quick-slurper staples and luxurious from-scratch feasts. Albala made a different noodle soup every day for two years. His obsession yielded all you need to know about making stock bases, using dried or fresh noodles, and choosing from a huge variety of garnishes, flavorings, and accompaniments. He lays out innovative techniques for mixing and matching bases and noodles with grains, vegetables, and other ingredients drawn from an international array of cuisines.

In addition to recipes both cutting edge and classic, Alabala describes new soup discoveries he created along the way. There’s advice on utensils, cooking tools, and the oft-overlooked necessity of matching a soup to the proper bowl. Finally, he sprinkles in charming historical details that cover everything from ancient Chinese millet noodles to that off-brand Malaysian ramen at the back of the ethnic grocery store. Filled with more than seventy color photos and one hundred recipes, A World of Noodle Soup is an indispensable guide for cooking, eating, and loving a universal favorite.”

Reflections on Michael Twitty’s Pepin Lecture

On October 24th, Michael Twitty visited BU to present a Pepin Lecture on his book, The Cooking Gene. This is Gastronomy student Ariana Gunderson’s take on the lecture.

Image from youtube.com

“But, America is not ready for you.” So said an editor at a major publishing house to Michael Twitty, when he proposed a book tracing the food history of his family and black American foodways in 2012. It turns out that Twitty, culinary historian and minor twitter celebrity (@KosherSoul) got the last laugh. Following a burst of media attention for his take on the Paula Deen scandal, publishers decided America was in fact ready to hear the story of Michael’s family and his intersectional identities – Twitty identifies as black, Jewish, Southern and gay. In his new book, The Cooking Gene, Twitty imparts an important narrative long silenced by white power structures in publishing, academia, media, and education.

Invited to BU for the Pépin Lecture Series, Twitty shared the story of his research and his book in an impassioned lecture peppered with Yiddish and pop culture references. In his talk, Twitty argued that when it comes to food, narratives matter.

Image from sierraclub.org
Image from sierraclub.org

“Who owns Southern food? Who created Southern food?” These questions are pertinent to current discussions of appropriation and the persistent impact of colonialism on the present day, but Twitty reframed them to emphasize narrative: “Just because the oppressor and oppressed share the same food does not mean we can create a false equivalence.” Twitty argues that the narrative of a black southerner eating black eyed peas is fundamentally different from the narrative of a white southerner eating those same peas, and that the complications of those narratives are what matter to discussions of race and food.

Narrative also matters in the histories we tell ourselves and our children. Twitty objected to the characterizations of the influences of black cuisines on the American foodscape as “contributions.” This cultural transaction was theft, he asserted, not a “contribution” made in exchange for “rape, whips, and chains.” Telling the stories of black foodways is a small but imperative step to rectifying the whitewashing of our national historical narrative, but it is crucial to be honest about the conditions of that history.

Finally, Twitty argued that personal narrative matters. With each small genealogical epiphany – the name of his great-great grandmother, the current locations of his distant relatives, the foods cooked by his Igbo ancestors – Twitty’s sense of self- and community-identity gained context and legitimacy.  He encourages everyone, but especially black Americans, to research their own family history and genealogy as he has, to add depth and emplacement to their personal narratives.

At the conclusion of his talk, Twitty assigned the audience some homework (his experience as a Hebrew School teacher was apparent here).  “It doesn’t matter where you are in your life’s journey,” said Twitty. “Go home and write your food biography.”  This biography is to be as exhaustive as possible, to include everything – even one’s trips to McDonald’s.

“Then,” Twitty instructed the audience, “if your elders are still alive, interview them.” If not, write down everything you can remember about the food they bought, cooked, ate, or talked about. Elders need not be only blood relatives, they can be anyone in your community.  This documentation and preservation of food histories is exactly the work Twitty has completed in incredible depth for his own family history, a methodology especially important for lifting up the voices of the chronically silenced. “Anyone can do this!” Twitty asserted.

Ready or not, Twitty is precisely the food historian America needs.


Don’t forget to sign up for the next installment of the Pépin Lecture Series on November 8th, where BU Gastronomy’s own Megan Elias presents her new book, Food on the Page. Register here.

Reflections on Julie Guthman’s New Food Activism

On October 12th, USC Professor Julie Guthman visited Boston to present a lecture on Social Justice and New Food Activism at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. This is Gastronomy student Madison Trapkin’s take on the lecture.

“The new food activism.”

I stared at this phrase on the projector screen, accompanied by a picture of a basket of ripe strawberries. I felt out of place as a BU student sitting in a Harvard lecture hall, but those little berries put me at ease. Julie Guthman is a food person, I reminded myself. You’ll feel better once she starts talking. And I did feel better. But I also felt worse.   

Julie Guthman, courtesy of UCSC News

I’d arrived early to get the perfect seat and now I watched as students, professors, and members of the community filled the empty spaces surrounding me. As the lights dimmed, the usual hush fell over the audience, and Guthman took the stage. I was struck by her stature. A petite woman with short grey hair wearing black glasses and a basic black top stared at me from behind the lectern.

I forgot about her height as soon as she started speaking. Guthman began her lecture with Mark Bittman and the issues surrounding foodie culture, the group of epicures who enjoy watching cooking shows and participate in the sort of voting-with-your-fork activism that both Bittman and Guthman reject. The problem with this kind of activism, according to Guthman, is that it doesn’t do enough. Foodies focus on the pleasures of food, but Guthman urges us to consider what happens when we go beyond pleasure as she moves into the next part of her lecture.

We need to consider food producers. Bottom line. The often-undocumented laborers working tirelessly to give us tomatoes year-round, these are the people we need to look at. The farm crew working daily in an environment laden with harmful pesticides, we have to consider them too. What about the companies these people are working for? What has been done to underline the systems of oppression within the food systems that give us, a privileged group of scholars, our daily bread?

Guthman told us to question it all. And to get active.

After a brief history of the alternative food movement, Guthman moved into three cases studies that illustrated potential successes and failures of food activism. However, what struck me the most was her closing segment: what to do in the age of Trump.

The New Food Activism, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman

Guthman’s lecture was a call to arms and an acknowledgement of what we’re up against. Food systems in America are about to be hit hard under Trump’s reign. From school lunch programs to genetically modified crops, things are going to change. And as activists, we need to be ready. We need to look at the underlying policies that threaten our foodways; immigration policy, income and health inequality, insufficient health and safety regulation. We need to educate ourselves and empower each other. Guthman cited movements like Black Lives Matter and Occupy as she pointed out the following: it IS possible for people of color to lead, to vote with more than your fork, and to affect the public conversation.

Her closing comment gave me chills. “We have to continue on in the vein of increasing awareness and activism,” Guthman stated, matter-of-factly. She meant business. And now, so do I.

I’m sure you could ask someone else who attended that lecture for his or her take and you’d get a different response, but that’s the beauty of the way Guthman speaks. She covered so much ground that it was almost impossible to narrow it down for the purposes of this blog post. The world of food activism is huge and filled with countless issues, platforms, and policies to get behind (or fight against), so we need to fight where we can.

Julie Guthman’s talk gave me hope for our country and for our foodways.

You can read more about Guthman’s lecture here.

Announcing the Fall 2017 Pépin Lecture Series in Food Studies and Gastronomy

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.

cooking_gene_hc_c_42534acf35f272dc72524c50640cba0a.nbcnews-ux-2880-1000
“The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South” by Michael W. Twitty. HarperCollins

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.

Food on the Page Elias
“Food on the Page: Cookbooks and American Culture” by Megan Elias, University of Pennsylvania Press

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.

German Jewish Cookbook
“The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and a History of a Cuisine” by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman, Brandies University Press