Speakers, Meals and Events

James Rebanks, Catherine Brown, Nicola Twilley and more…
Our hungers are written on the land. Every bite that we eat is the product of a particular landscape or landscapes, which perhaps explains why this has been our most popular theme ever at the Symposium. This year, a record 170 paper ideas were submitted, of which 42 will be presented in July. In addition, plenary speakers will consider the question of landscape and food from many angles, from microbes to sheep, from the joy of different landscapes of cooking to the polluted airscapes of modern cities. Alongside the talks, this year’s meals will celebrate food landscapes of many kinds, featuring delicious regional ingredients from Ireland, England, Turkey and Armenia.
On Friday afternoon, the Symposium will open with a short polemic on the need for greater biodiversity from biologist and writer Colin Tudge, leader of the Campaign for Real Farming. Then, we are delighted to announce that this year’s Jane Grigson Memorial Lecture will be given by Catherine Brown, who will talk on A Challenging Landscape: Scotland’s Food and Drink Assets. The lecture will examine the unequal landscapes of food in Scotland (from poverty to affluence) and the question of EU protected foods, a topic that has been given new urgency in Britain in the wake of Brexit.
The reception and dinner that night will explore the complex historical layers of the Boyne Valley in Ireland in Ireland, with a tasting of Ireland’s liquid assets, poetry and singing after the meal. After dinner, symposiasts might also choose to join Barbara Ketcham Wheaton presenting a hands-on introduction to her magnum opus, the Cook’s Oracle database which allows researchers to search for more than 130 000 tidbits from more than 3000 historic cookbooks.
We are proud to welcome James Rebanks as Saturday’s keynote speaker. Rebanks is a farmer, one of an estimated two billion on the planet. The Oxford-graduated Herdwick shepherd will take us to the landscape of the Lake District, exploring the ancient link between the mountains and its inhabitants, both human and sheep. As someone whose family have been sheep farmers for 600 years, Rebanks is uniquely well-placed to speak of the way that particular food-producing landscapes give rise to certain ways of life. A panel chaired by Naomi Duguid will bring together food writers Claudia Roden and Elisabeth Luard to talk about the practical landscapes of cooking, from foraging to food markets. Claudia Roden has said that an aroma can summon a whole civilisation and has quoted the Catalan writer, Josep Pla who said that ‘cooking is landscape in a saucepan’.
Saturday lunch will explore green and leafy urban landscapes, while Saturday’s dinner will center on the food of the Turkish-Armenian border and the foodways of a single region under two nationalities: Haven’t we shared much bread and salt together? Devised and cooked by a dedicated team of experts from Turkey and Armenia, the dishes (paired with excellent local wines) will also feature in a short documentary about that region to be after dinner with the director present.
On Sunday, we look at landscape from the less obvious angles of air and time. We are happy to announce Nicola Twilley, journalist and co-presenter of the Gastropod podcast, as our keynote speaker. Twilley will speak about edible geographies and her involvement in a project to make smog meringues from the polluted air of different cities of the world: from terroir to aeroir. In two short plenaries before lunch, Inigo Thomas will speak about the concept of time in French Peasant Kitchens and Joshua Evans will examine Microbial Landscapes (from cheese to other ferments). A Ploughman’s Lunch, organized by Borough Market’s David Matchett, will feature protected British foodstuffs and provoke thought about how the British food landscape may change outside of the EU.
We look forward to seeing you at Catz in July.


Over the years the Symposium receptions and meals have evolved into excellent platforms for carefully selected producers to reach out to this choice group of opinion leaders from all areas of the food world. The Trustees are happy to consider any suggestions; please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.