S. Worthen (owlfish) wrote,
S. Worthen

The Symposium

I've told you about the picnic, the punting, and the souvenirs, but not the symposium itself. Several people there said that the extracurriculars were the highlight of the show, and that the papers were just the bulk of the time. This meant I went in with low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the papers I attended. The sessions were designed around the theory that we'd all downloaded and read all the papers in advance. In practice, perhaps three out of thirty had per session. Fortunately, most of the presenters knew this would be the case, and presented accordingly. I'd've gotten more out of the papers I followed least - I hope - if I'd read the full paper first.

Although food history relates very closely to my actual work, I've been thinking of it more as a hobby area for me for a while. Thus it was a particular surprise and pleasure when it turned out I'd heard of plenty of the people there - not as many of the historians as would've been ideal, but enough of the others that I knew I belonged.

Who was there? Ruth Reichl (previously restaurant reviewer to the NYT, currently editor-in-chief of Gourmet) gave the plenary address. Henrietta Green (of Henrietta Green's Food Lover's Fair and, apparently, nearly single-handedly responsible for the beginnings of the good British food revival back in the '70s) and Raymond Blanc (of Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, an extraordinarily highly-rated restaurant) were on a roundtable discussion together. There were restauranteurs there who owned restaurants I knew of. Claudia Roden is co-chair of the event. I met the food blogger who was one of the only people on the internet to use the world "atlet", with that spelling, when I was trying to figure out what an atlet was.

The university food service even rose the occasion, with full table service at all meals, multiple courses, and generally good food, especially given it was in a college setting. There was a play (albeit a brief one) written just for the symposium, a yearly tradition, apparently. There was a relevant movie shown on Friday night. It was well-run and well-organized. I'm looking forward to going back to it in the future.
Tags: academia, oxford

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