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.”

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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.

Dr. Ari Ariel’s Talk on the Hummus Wars

By Kendall Vanderslice

On September 30th, a rainy Wednesday evening, Dr. Ari Ariel presented the second Pepin lecture of the year, titled “Hummus Wars: Buying and Boycotting Middle Eastern Foods.” The new head of the Gastronomy program began his presentation with a slideshow of the Guinness World Record competition between Lebanon and Israel, each vying for the award of producing the largest hummus dish. A 9,000-pound dish in Israel was quickly defeated by a group of Lebanese chefs. After a few rounds of back and forth battling, the record for largest dish of hummus was won by Chef Ramzi Choueiri and students in Lebanon for their 23,000 pound serving.

Ariel PictureWhile this might sound like nothing more than friendly competition between neighboring countries, Dr. Ariel says he views the hummus record as an extension of the political climate. It is set, he explains, within “a rhetoric of violence that turns cooks into combatants.” Since 2008, Lebanon has been seeking a legal claim to hummus. By trademarking hummus in the European Union, they aim to regulate the proportions of ingredients allowed in the tasty dip and require Lebanese recognition on every label.

The history of hummus is largely unknown. In Arabic, the word simply means “chickpea,” but the dish hummus bi tahini has become so popular around the world that it is commonly referred to as simply hummus. The exact origin remains a mystery – the earliest recipe is found in a 13th century cookbook – yet several countries claim ownership of the dish. Because hummus exists between multiple foodways and constructions of identity, this attempt to trademark the dish raises questions of authenticity and gastro-nationalism. Who has a right to regulate claims to authenticity? Is authenticity a product of, or a producer of, identity and nationality?

According to Dr. Ariel, the hummus wars prove that, while food can serve to reconcile, it can also push things in the opposite direction. Far from a bridge to peace, this culinary rivalry creates a new space within which political conflict can work itself out. Whether this non-violent space will remain such is yet to be discovered. So the next time you reach for some hummus, remember that the dish is a little deeper than you thought.

Don Lindgren Explores the Anatomy of a Cookbook

by Barbara Rotger

Like family bibles and favorite children’s books, cookbooks are often singled out in the home for special treatment. They are kept separately from other books, passed down from generation to generation, with each caretaker inscribing his or her own name within it. However, unlike other treasured volumes, users regularly mark these texts with their own corrections or commentary, adding whole new sections or boldly crossing out recipes that have proved unsuccessful. Years of heavy use are reflected in repairs, occasionally made by professional binders, but more frequently accomplished with tape or needle and thread, providing a tangible link between the craft of cooking and other household crafts.

Don Lindgren, proprietor of Rabelais Fine Books on Food & Drink, made these points in his lecture “The Anatomy of a Cookbook: The Useful Object and Its Users.” This was the first talk in this year’s Jacques Pepin Lectures Series, offered by Boston University’s Programs in Food and Wine. Lindgren emphasized use of the term “object” rather than “text” in his title, noting that there are many aspects of cookbooks that scholars can learn from that beyond lists of ingredients and instructions for their preparation.

Referencing the methodology that historian Barbara Ketcham Wheaton presents in her seminar on Reading Historic Cookbooks, Lindgren encouraged the audience to look for details such as the number of ingredients a cookbook calls for, the source of those ingredients, and the kind of environment they might reflect. Scholars should also consider evidence of the range of equipment in use and the people involved in preparing food – from heads of households planning menus, cooks who prepared them, and the merchants, foragers and farmers who supplied the ingredients.

Lindgren pointed out the importance of considering the motivations of the publisher or author. Cookbooks do not just exist IMG_2361as a vehicle to share recipes; authors may seek to gain publicity for themselves, raise funds for a cause, or support advertisers. The use of pseudonyms is common in cookbook publishing. Lindgren illustrated this point with an example, noting that a volume published by the “Society of New York Gentlemen” sold far more copies after the author’s name was changed to the fictitious “Priscilla Homespun”.

In another example of cookbook sleuthing, Lindgren showed how a bookseller’s ticket, affixed to the inside of a collection of cocktail recipes that was published in 1862, shed light on another historical moment. This slip of paper, pasted inside the cover of the book, indicated that the volume was sold in a shop in Havana that was in business from 1873 to 1877, providing evidence that contradicts the conventional wisdom of when cocktail culture developed on the island of Cuba.

After his talk, participants were invited to examine a number of cookbooks from Lindgren’s shop. Many took home a catalog and went home inspired to consider the “useful objects” on their own kitchen shelves in a new light.

Spring 2015 Course Profile: Archaeology of Food

Dr. Karen Metheny, Lecturer in the MLA in Gastronomy Program, has planned several guest lectures and workshops in conjunction with her spring 2015 course, Archaeology of Food.

mount vernon
Archaeological site in Mount Vernon (credit: mountvernon.org)

The first of these special programs, paired with the Pépin Lecture Series, is a Whiskey-Tasting Program with Luke Pecoraro, Senior Archaeologist at Mount Vernon. Drawing from the archaeological records of known whiskey production sites, Pecoraro will offer a brief introduction to distilled products made in colonial America, with specific reference to George Washington’s distillery. A five-still commercial operation on one of Washington’s farms from 1797 to circa 1802, the distillery burned to ground in 1814, and was lost until re-discovered by Mount Vernon archaeologists in 1997. Intensive excavations uncovered the entire structure, revealing information about the layout of the stills, drains, and living quarters, and sparking renewed interest in spirits distillation in America. The recently reconstructed distillery is one of the few places where whiskey is made just as it was in the early Republic. The recipe for Washington’s whiskey survives, and is faithfully reproduced in small batches, twice a year, at the distillery. Following the lecture students will have the opportunity to taste five whiskeys.

succotash
Paula prepares Plymouth Succotash for a program in 2013 (credit: plymouthcraft.org)

Later in the semester, students will participate in a day-long, hands-on workshop on Succotash, a Native American dish that has become inextricably linked to colonial New England foodways and to regional traditions associated with Forefathers’ Day, a celebration of the founding of Plymouth Colony. The workshop will be led by Paula Marcoux, a food historian and archaeologist, author of Cooking with Fire, editor of Edible South Shore and South Coast, and a craft artisan/instructor for the Plymouth Center for Restoration Arts and Forgotten Trades. Paula is a frequent lecturer on the topic of vernacular foodways. Her research on succotash draws upon manuscript receipt books and print cookbooks in the archives of the Plymouth Antiquarian Society. Students will have the opportunity to hear about her research as they prepare the ingredients for succotash using the recipe of Frona Spooner (1831- 1917), a resident of North Street in Plymouth.

Archaeology of Food (MET ML 611 A1) introduces students to the archaeological study of food in prehistoric and historic-period cultures, with a specific focus on how food was obtained, processed, consumed, and preserved in past times, and the impact of diet upon past human populations in terms of disease and mortality. Students will learn how archaeologists use a wide range of artifacts, plant remains, human skeletal evidence, animal remains, and other data to recover information about food use and food technology over time. This introduction will be followed by a survey of the archaeological evidence of food procurement, processing, and consumption from the earliest modern humans to early farmers to more recent historical periods. Key topics will include the domestication of plants and animals, feasting, the role of households in food production, and the archaeological evidence for gender and status in cooking, preparation areas, serving vessels, and consumption.

Enrollment in this class is open to qualified non-degree students, who are encouraged to contact gastrmla@bu.edu to inquire about registration. Classes will be held on Monday evenings, beginning January 26.