Canadian Association for Food Studies Conference, May 30-June 1, 2008

The CAFS conference is being held in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia this weekend. It is my first time attending this meeting and I am looking forward to meeting other Food Studies folks in Canada. I will be giving a paper on Sunday morning entitled “Porta Palazzo: Crossing cultural boundaries at the market”. For more information on the program have a look at the CAFS site. There are many interesting sessions that deal with everything from food security to urban agriculture.

Political Reading

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Buying a newspaper at the train station in Bra is a political act. The other day I asked for a copy of the Internazionale, a magazine that is a collection of international news articles translated into Italian, but had to settle for La Repubblica, a centre-left national paper. In the end, I had to justify my choice of newspapers to the man who runs the bar/news stand. “Non sei mica una comunista? (You are not a communist by chance)” he asked in an accusatory tone. Wow, I don’t think I have ever been called a communist before; it caught me off guard. Most academics in Europe vote Left and it is the political position of my work environment. I threw something back about freedom of choice. I knew it wasn’t worth getting into a long discussion over and it was great clear to me I was dealing with someone who had strong right-wing political views. At present, it is nearly impossible to have an intelligent political debate in the street: hand in hand ignorance and the Right rule in Italy. This incident got me thinking about everyday politics in my own country.

In Canada, we rarely talk about politics. Maybe because we have little historical baggage; although in Quebec this is perhaps not the case. We also have little political polarization in Canada and most of our parties sit toward the centre. This is in some ways refreshing but also potentially dangerous: do we lack vision, identity and leadership in our country? I personally feel a bit of healthy daily political debate is long overdue in Canada. That said, I don’t feel that buying a newspaper in Canada will ever become much of a political act; at least not until we develop a variety of political positions and encourage a culture of critical, engaged media.

NYU Food Studies in Florence

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After a two year absence, I will be participating once more in the NYU Italian Cuisine and Mediterranean Diet program in beautiful Florence. This course always seems to bring together fascinating lecturers from all over Italy and the world as well as some of the most engaged and hungry students from the States. Many good friends have been made at La Pietra, NYU’s stunning campus in the Florentine hills.

I will be giving a lecture on using ethnographic methods in food studies. Lisa Sasson and I will do a lecture and tasting on mineral water. We are going to try to bring together the social, cultural and nutritional aspects of mineral water in Italy.

For the love of oil

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There is only one thing I love as much as red wine–olive oil. A few years ago I started a company with my mother to import olive oil from Umbria, Italy to Canada (basically to feed my habit). I can’t imagine cooking with anything else. Heck, I eat it on my toast for breakfast.

As time passes my passion for olive oil grows and now I am to the point where it guides my wanderings around the Mediterranean. I am off to Spain for an olive oil adventure and I have found that olives are also a happy outlet where I get to combine my interest in anthropology, food and people. For more on my olive oil adventures see my olive blog and if you want to know more about our oil, visit Amelia Oil.