Fall Conference 2009
Food for Thought
“I have always loved food and am fascinated by everything about it. As a fan of the humanities, I am so glad you put this conference on!”
This sentiment and others were shared following VHC’s 36th annual fall conference, “Food for Thought,” held November 13 and 14 at The Essex Culinary Resort. The conference sought to examine how food and eating shape us as individuals and as a culture. Throughout the two days, 190 people, including authors, scholars, other food experts and conference attendees explored topics such as the role of place in taste (terroir), world food security, food and the landscape, the Japanese tea ceremony, artisan cheesemaking, and other topics.
The weekend got underway Friday afternoon with five optional pre-conference workshops exploring terroir, Tuscan food traditions, wine and cheese pairings, the five tastes, and the Japanese tea ceremony. Each workshop offered an intimate, sensory window onto an experience of food, warming up minds and taste buds for the main conference activities to come.
Conference participants gathered Friday evening in the Mansion Ballroom for a special treat: a conversation between Darra Goldstein (professor and editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture) and legendary food and fiction editor Judith Jones, whose long career includes editing books for Julia Child and writing some of her own, including, recently, The Pleasures of Cooking for One. Their conversation—informal, witty, and dripping with wise insights about food, cooking, and culture—left attendees with much to discuss at the reception afterward.
International health expert Dr. Nils Daulaire gave his Saturday morning plenary address, “The Future of Food in a Hungry World.” Daulaire, former president and CEO of the Global Health Council and recently returned from work in Ethiopia, presented an eye-opening and often sobering slide talk that looked at health, food security, and global politics. He discussed the many factors affecting hunger hotspots across the planet, efforts made to mitigate the problem, and what must still be done. Afterward, his sensitive answers to many excellent questions shed further light on a critical issue.
Following the presentation, conference-goers moved into separate groups for breakout sessions that looked at a diversity of topics delving deeper into particular aspects of food: the imagery of food in the New Testament; sustainable food production in Vermont; artisan cheesemaking; and the links between religious beliefs and food practices.
After a delicious lunch of locally sourced foods, attendees settled in for the day’s second plenary, “From Deer Camp to CSA: Food and its Relation to the Landscape,” with UVM professor Amy Trubek. This fascinating slide talk looked at Vermont’s working landscape, the food it produces, and the culture it creates. Trubek’s audio clips, courtesy of the Vermont Folklife Center, filled the room with the voices of old-time deer hunters and maple sugar makers . . . and with laughter and nods of nostalgia from many attendees.
Afternoon breakout sessions offered four more rewarding windows onto food: food in film; cultural symbols and food; the history of bread; and the cookbook as genre. Afterward, conference attendees gathered one final time in the ballroom for a panel discussion, “Why Good Food Matters,” with Darra Goldstein, Amy Trubek, and Jeff Roberts, director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese.
The three panelists offered their insights, both professional and personal, into why good food is so important, and how “good” can be defined in different ways. Recalling that the word companion stems from the latin term for “with bread,” one definition of good food, the panelists agreed, is food that is shared.
Stuffed with food for thought and food shared with each other, participants in VHC’s 2009 fall conference adjourned for another year.
Food for Thought Fall Conference Brochure