Food Historian

Introduction by Arient Mack to 1999 NYU Conference Food: Nature and Culture:

“What we eat and why we choose the foods that make up our daily diet; the ceremonies that surround food; how it underscores our sameness and differences; its mythic and symbolic importance; the joy of plenty; the fear of famine and deprivation — all are occasions for reflections on the human condition.

Why do we tolerate the prevalence of widespread hunger in a world of abundance? What roles do culturally determined food preferences or the power of science, politics, or global trade play in determining who will be well fed and who will starve?”

There is an unending trove of material available, if you want to enliven your cooking classes with some food stories, or enrich your copy if you write about food, or even develop a syllabus for a new  high school or college level course.  For example, this is how I approached a unique series of gastronomy lessons.  I developed some menus and used the prism of food to talk about several areas that I personally found interesting.  Happily the students did too. This is one of my menus:

Oysters Garnished with Sevruga Caviar

Roast Beef


Spiced Crispy Chilean Sea Bass in Ginger-Cardamom Broth

Locally Grown, Organic Mixed Green Salad Seasoned with Salt & Pepper

Lemon Juice and Virgin Olive Oil Dressing

Red Wine and Imported Sparking Water

Cheese Platter and  French Bread

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Tea  or Coffee

This menu provides the framework for discussing the following:

The history of oysters: trade issues involved in banning of imported caviar

The carnivore and the vegetarian diet

Role of chefs in boycotting endangered fish i.e. bass and politics of foie gras

The discovery of fire and its role in the evolution of the human race

Organic farming and genetically engineered crops

The impact of citrus fruit on the global economy

The symbolism of olive oil

The history of the spice trade

The physiology of taste and smell

An examination of issues related to appetite and hunger

The changing face of wine and the influence of advertising and packaging

Water: the most vital issue facing the world

The reasons behind the recent interest in artisanal cheeses and slow foods

The history of bread

Flourless chocolate cake as it relates to fads and trends

The impact of tea and coffee on the health of the consumer

The inevitability of change and present and future impact of technology on upscale dining.

What fun!