Speakers, Meals and Events


Our Friday dinner, The Power of Food in the Columbian Exchange organised by Symposiast Sandra Mian, comes courtesy of Restaurante El Mural de los Poblanos and the city of Puebla de Zaragoza in south-eastern Mexico. Puebla, Mexico’s fourth largest city, was established soon after the Spanish conquest in a fertile valley midway between the capital and the Caribbean port of Veracruz – effectively, on the crossroads of Asia, America and Europe. The result is an extraordinary gastronomic and cultural diversity recently awarded UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Expect delicious authenticity including Mexican wine, beer, Mezcal, mole poblano and the possibility of crickets.

Saturday lunch Saturday lunch we’re privileged and grateful to be able to announce, will be the celebration of the Healing Power of Cooking Together . The meal will be prepared with the assistance of four remarkable women – Munira Mahmud, Fatima Odonkor, Halima Al-Huthaifi and Lillian Olwa – whose community was affected by the Grenfell Tower fire in West London in 2017. In the aftermath of the disaster, a group of women gathered in a communal kitchen at the Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage nearby, where they were able to prepare fresh food for their families, friends and neighbours. As they cooked together and shared recipes, the community began to re-connect, heal and look to the future. This was the start of the Hubb Community Kitchen and led to the publication of Together: Our Community Cookbook, published by Ebury with a foreword by The Duchess of Sussex, with all proceeds going to support the Kitchen. “Hubb means love in Arabic,” explain the contributors in their introduction. “We named ourselves the Hubb Community Kitchen to celebrate the thing that we all feel every time we meet. Our kitchen has always been a place of good food, love, support and friendship. We cook the recipes we’ve grown up with, so there’s no stress. Swapping family recipes and moments of laughter gave us a sense of normality and home.”

Saturday dinner explores The Power and Versatility of Frugal Greek Cooking under the guidance of author, teacher, island-dweller and long-time Symposiast Aglaia Kremezi with the collaboration of Chef Michael Costa of Zaytinya in Washington DC. Expect superb island-cooking (Aglaia runs her own cookery school on Kea) and an edible lesson in the original Mediterranean diet.

Sunday’s lunch, With her Hands, is a celebration of the power of women in food. Masterminded by Trustee David Matchett of Borough Market – with due acknowledgement of all the female growers, cooks, and stall-holders who supply their delicious produce to London’s oldest and liveliest food-market – we can expect a menu that celebrates the skills of women as makers, producers and agriculturalists.


Joanna Blythman, Friday’s Keynote Speaker sponsored by The Jane Grigson Memorial Trust, is an investigative journalist, broadcaster and writer who has won numerous awards for her work on food-related issues in Britain and elsewhere. Her writing covers topics as diverse as supermarket domination, the environmental impact of salmon farming, the validity of healthy eating advice, farm animal cloning, and the causes of food price rises and obesity. Her most recent books are What To Eat (2012) and Swallow This (2015).

Marion Nestle, our Saturday Keynote Speaker, is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the politics of food production and consumption and their impact on health. Her research examines scientific and socioeconomic influences on food choice, diet and health, and public policy. She is the Paulette Goddard Professor Emerita in the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University, which she chaired from 1988 to 2003. From 2008-2013, she wrote a monthly ‘Food Matters’ column for the San Francisco Chronicle. Through prize-winning books, she has become a national influencer of food policy, nutrition, and food education in the US and throughout the wider world. Named a ‘Trailblazer’ by the International Association of Culinary Professionals and rated no 2 in Forbes magazine’s list of 7 of ‘the world’s most powerful foodies’, her latest book, Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, was published in October 2018. Professor Nestle blogs at foodpolitics.com and tweets regularly @marionnestle. Note: the family name is pronounced “nestle” – as in affectionate contact between two warm-blooded creatures rather than as the Swiss food conglomerate to whom the eminent professor is unrelated.

Our Sunday Keynote Speaker is Carolyn Steel, author of The Hungry City (2008 – recipient of the Royal Society of Literature’s Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction). As architect, writer and teacher, her field of interest lies in the relationship between food and the development of cities. After studying architecture at Cambridge, a spell at the British School in Rome convinced her of the importance of food in shaping the urban environment since ancient times. Today, the dangers inherent in the provision of cheap food by companies solely concerned with profitability led her to examine alternative dwelling models and the concept of Sitopia (‘food place’). Her TedTalk (more than a million views) explores the idea that by living in cities we make ourselves dependent on unsustainable systems while distancing ourselves from our most important relationship, between us and nature.

On Sunday afternoon we welcome our final Keynote Speaker, Zita Cobb, entrepreneur and innkeeper on Fogo Island, a remote and beautiful island set in ice-bound seas off the coast of Newfoundland, home to one of Canada’s oldest-established fishing communities. Of recent times, the islanders have been faced with the difficulties common to all such communities – depletion of fish-stocks leading to loss of income leading to de-population – along with new problems associated with climate change. Which was the reason that our Speaker, returning to her island-home after a successful career in high-tec, established the Shorefast Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting economic development through the island’s twin assets – people and nature. Already in place, adding to the development of a tourist industry with an emphasis on hospitality based on local tradition, is an artist-in-residence program, Fogo Island Arts, and Geology at the Edge, a program created by Shorefast that takes guests on a hike with the island’s geologist-in-residence. While Fogo presents a particular geographical challenge, the hope is that the success of Shorefast as an enterprise – self-sustaining, with all profits returned to the island – will provide the blueprint for similarly-threatened islanders everywhere by growing a new food culture and self-empowering existing communities.


TRANSCRIBATHON! Join fellow Symposiasts on Friday, 12 July in the St. Catz JCR Theatre from 1.00 to 3.30 PM and help transcribe an English manuscript cookbook from the 1700s. Please bring a laptop so that Heather Wolfe, co-director of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s ‘Before’ Farm to Table initiative, can show us how to use the simple transcription-interface. The goal is to have fun and discover new recipes while transcribing as many pages as possible. Our transcriptions will become part of the Folger’s recipe-book corpus, which we aim to make available online in 2020. No previous experience required! For more details and express interest, contact hwolfe@folger.edu