Thought for Food: the culinary arts as a lens to experience people, history, and culture

“Food is how we pass on our culture.”
“Food is how we resisted enslavement and oppression.”
“Food is how we showed our agency.”

These concepts underpin the work of culinary historian Michael Twitty, who visited Lab to talk to students about history and humanity. Mr. Twitty visited classrooms, gave a keynote to a large audience in Gordon Parks Assembly Hall, and shared his mission to document African American food history.

At the most basic level, food is the foundation of human experience. If art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, then cooking—more formally the culinary arts—might be the most widely practiced art known to man.

Today, the culinary arts are not just about the Cordon Bleu. The culinary arts are a lens through which we can explore virtually every aspect of our existence from artistic expression and cultural history to sourcing, economics, and environmental issues.

This year at Lab, Thought for Food is the umbrella under which the 2018–19 Kistenbroker Family Artist in Residence Program will bring culinary artists and experts to Lab. Thought for Food will feature the beauty and the social/emotional power of the culinary arts. The goal is to connect to our mission, our community, the social sciences, and other art forms through the culinary arts, grounded by themes of place, culture, and justice. Experts who know food and its relation to people, history, and culture are excited to partner with Lab:

  • Natalie Moore, author of Lab’s 2018 summer read, The South Side, and Maya-Camille Broussard, creator of Justice of the Pies and author of Feed the Revolution, spoke together (and then served pie) under the theme of food justice.
  • Former White House Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy and chef Sam Kass, ’98, AB’04, returned to his alma mater to speak with students.
  • Mr. Twitty, author of The Cooking Gene, talked about his ancestry, slavery, and how transatlantic and domestic slave trade spread African culture and foods such as rice, coffee, sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, and okra.
  • Sean Sherman, the James Beard award-winning “Sioux Chef” brought to Lab his work of revitalizing Native American Cuisine, and in the process reclaiming an important culinary culture long buried and often inaccessible.
     
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