Evelyn J. Kim, today’s guest blogger, was our guest curator for this year’s Eating Through Time Festival.
With speakers from Jacques Pepin, Tom Colicchio, Lori Silverbush, Bryant Terry, and so many others, there was something for everyone at the Eating Through Time Festival on October 17, whether one’s interests were in history, public health, or culture.
The wide range of topics speaks to the various ways we perceive food. Our first main stage speaker, food justice activist and cookbook author, Bryant Terry, succinctly expressed these perceptions: “Start with the visceral, move to the cerebral, end with the political.”
Politics was a theme for many of our panelists. University of Maryland Law Professor Frank Pasquale emphasized the need for transparency in food regulation appointments. At the local level, Ellie Wilson, a nutritionist and policy maker for New York state, and the New York Academy of Medicine’s own Kimberly Libman focused upon the need to support more than food on plates: wellness programs and support for produce farmers are also a part of just and healthy food systems. This holistic view of changing food policy was encapsulated nicely in our screening of Lori Silverbush’s A Place at the Table. Looking at food insecurity in the U.S., producers Silverbush and Tom Colicchio underscored the need for both federal and local efforts in solving hunger.
Are there other ways of tackling nutrition and health disparities in the U.S.? On our all-woman “Starting Up Health” panel, moderator Nina Meijers spoke with three start-ups on how technology can empower consumer decisions. The “Eating the Future” panel also asked similar questions regarding how new technologies, such as insect proteins and 3-D printing, could feed the world sustainably and address malnutrition concerns.
To demonstrate those possibilities, lead researcher at Nordic Food Lab, Josh Evans, proposed entomophagy as a possible response to food insecurity and sustainability dilemmas worldwide. Passing out insect-based food and beverages, Joshua proved that deliciousness and sustainability could go together. Dr. David Eisenberg called upon more doctors and health professionals to learn about food and nutrition by enrolling in cooking classes, such as Harvard Public Health and Culinary Institute of America’s collaborative program “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives.”
Culture and the arts can also be a conduit for action. Poet Simone Bridges and non-profit Hip-Hop Health performed pieces that could teach today’s youth about nutrition and health through the spoken word. In a historical context, culture has also been a driver of nutritional theories and practices. Historians Ken Albala presented his research on sex, power, and food in the Renaissance while Betty Fussell discussed purity and danger in food advertisements in the 20th century.
The power of food is also an embodied knowledge. Betty Fussell, our oldest presenter, gave some sage advice on how food (along with naps, sex, and good friends) is a key factor in longevity not only from a nutritional, but also affective standpoint. No one could be a better spokesperson for this than our keynote speaker, Jacques Pépin. Reminiscing on his nearly eighty years, Chef Pépin’s lecture, “Food Memories,” touched on his life in food from his childhood in France to his most recent (and 14th food show!) on PBS. While Chef Pépin attributed his continued stamina to lots of wine, he also stressed the importance of the social and the sensory in his work as a chef. Despite the materiality of food, Pépin reminded us that food is ephemeral: “Food is fragile. You eat it, it goes. What remains are the memories.”
I can’t thank the Academy enough for giving me the opportunity to assemble a day’s worth of programming about the issues I care about most: Food, social justice, and public health. And I certainly will have those memories for a lifetime.
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