Oxford Food Symposium 2018: Grants for Young Chefs

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Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Harold McGee, a trustee of the Symposium, introduces the 2018 Young Chef Grant

It’s time to spread the good word again: the Oxford Symposium invites young culinarians to apply for grants to participate in this year’s edition, 6-8 July. The application deadline is 1 March 2018.

The Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery is the original international food conference, now in its fourth decade, and open to anyone who’s interested, professional or amateur, chef or student. I attended my first in 1985. It’s impressive not only for the range of subjects and participants and contributions, but also for the convivial communal meals, which nowadays are prepared by guest chefs to illuminate each year’s theme. (They’ve come a long way since 1985!)
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Remembering Harlan

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Image credit: Philip Walker
The Symposium’s President, Claudia Roden, pays tribute to Harlan Walker who passed away on 16th December 2017

Harlan Walker was the much loved angel of the Oxford Symposium, for years seeing to absolutely everything that made the Symposium possible, from editing and printing the papers to organizing and running the registration and catering arrangements.

He ran everything single handedly, sometimes with the help of his son Philip and other members of his family, until the early 2000s. He continued to attend trustee meetings giving advice and helping to solve problems even when he was unwell.
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Beloved of Kings and Kindergartners

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The deep history of humble apfelmus

Volker Bach continues his occasional series on German historical recipes.

In modern German cuisine, apfelmus is a ubiquitous staple usually served with potato pancakes or as a dessert in its own right. Supermarkets sell industrially produced versions cheaply in glass jars or carton packages, and organic makers often combine theirs with other fruit or spices to make it more interesting. It looks entirely like a product of the twentieth century, but this commonplace food has a long and noble tradition.
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2014 Symposium Proceedings Free on Google Books

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Food and Markets

We are pleased to announce that another volume of our proceedings is now available on Google Books for free: Food and Markets.

Learn about the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul, the kosher poultry racket in early twentieth century New York, the beginnings of the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo and more here.

The Symposium proceedings are published by Prospect Books for three years after publication. After this point they are available for free on Google Books.
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Young Chef Report 2017

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Girish Nayak. Photo credit: Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir

Girish Nayak, one of the 2017 Young Chefs, reflects on his experience at the Symposium

Please tell us about your career to date.
I started baking when I was 18 years old in my college bakery and I wasn’t really interested in taking it up as a profession during my time there. Once I finished college, I started working in local halwa shops and bakeries in a Southern coastal part of India called Udupi. It was here that it got really interesting: the products that were created from just flour, water, yeast and salt were just amazing. Wanting to get more knowledge in this field. I enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, New York. I used to bake bread part time at the school and during my time in New York I got to work and intern under some of the best pastry chefs in the country at Jean George, Gotham Bar and Grill, Bouchon Bakery, Amy Bread Bakery. I left NYC and came back to India to try and help develop an Indian pastry/baking program. Now I help run a bakery which caters to two restaurants called Olive Beach and Toast and Tonic in Bangalore. I am also an adjunct professor in the baking and pastry program at the Manipal University.
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Garden Seeds in Early Modern England

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The second edition of Sir Hugh Plat’s book on gardening.

‘…Such as are old and withered, or else… such as are stark naught’ – Symposiast Malcolm Thick on the variable quality of garden seeds in early Modern England

Without seeds it is impossible to grow most vegetables and, as bread is made from ground seeds, that too would not exist without them. Seeds are therefore the starting point of most gardening and I hope to discuss imports of new types of vegetable seed at the 2018 Symposium. Meanwhile, many of you will be familiar with the biblical parable of the sower in Matthew 13:

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

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Food and Landscape: Recipes from an Armenian – Turkish Banquet

The Saturday evening dinner at the 2017 Symposium was ‘Landscape: Compliments of the Soil – Flavours from the Armenian and Turkish Borderlands organized by Gamze Íneceli and Íhsan Karayazi in association with the MSA the Culinary Arts Academy.

The MSA Academy of Istanbul have generously shared their recipes for Chard Leaves Stuffed with Emmer and Sour Cherries; Barlotti Bean Puree with Pickled Carrots and Pastirma and Aubergine, Courgette and Strained Yogurt with Lavash Crisps.
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Borlotti Beans in Burgundy

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Image credit: Di Murrell
Symposiast Di Murrell plants ‘Seeds’ in anticiaption of next year’s Symposium

We wondered at the significance of the borlotti beans and how they might have fitted into the food-fest which is the Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery. Why should there be packets and packets of the things there for the taking? Could they have been a small gift from Borough Market and meant to be placed beside our plates when we sat down to our Ploughman’s Lunch but forgotten in the haste of serving? Maybe we were supposed to take them away to pot up and plant; to have an actual living memory of our week-end at St.Catz? Perhaps they were meant to be a link between this year’s subject – ‘Landscape’ and next year’s – ‘Seeds’? Is a bean a seed or is it a fruit or could it be both, I wondered? No idea – but as we left the dining hall we helped ourselves to several packets of them anyway.

Two days later we were back at our small hovel in Burgundy. It was late and dark as we walked into the garden but we knew immediately something was wrong. Our feet scuffed through leaves of Virginia creeper torn from the walls of our old house which now lay in shredded heaps on the crazy paving path. How odd! Perhaps our friend Markus had been round and decided to give the stuff a haircut – it grows so fast at this time of year – but surely he would have cleared it away? Too tired to think it through we tottered off to bed and woke late the following morning to perfect Burgundy weather: sun in a cloudless sky with a cool breeze to temper the heat. Just as it had been when we had departed for Oxford only a few days previously. Except – something had changed.

Our ancient peach tree had been, when we left, weighed down with fruit. It now stood like a forlorn waif in the centre of our small garden, its leaves in tatters and its fruit gone. On the ground beneath lay heaps of half-grown peaches, pockmarked and bruised. Every soft leaved plant in the garden looked as though it had been attacked by locusts. All the flowers had disappeared.

We went to find Markus. His large allotment was decimated. Gone were his courgettes, his cucumbers, his salads, his onions, his fennel; every leaf and stalk torn, shredded and dying. The roots – potatoes, beets, radishes and carrots – would soon die too without the energy their leaves provide. Fruit lay everywhere upon the ground; tomatoes bashed to pieces; the broccoli, cavolo nero, and runner beans planted especially for his English friends (the French don’t grow these), all destroyed. This same brutal scene was replicated in every garden throughout our village and a line could be plotted across the landscape marking the trail of devastation. Caused by a storm of hailstones the size of golfballs, our neighbours had endured an onslaught from the heavens that had lasted a full twenty minutes. The ice lay up to eighteen inches deep on the ground, then had melted so rapidly that a torrent of water streamed down the narrow lanes and into people’s houses. The noise on ancient tiled roofs was horrendous. The storm came from nowhere and when it passed it was as though it had never been except for the devastation wrought.

Too late now to replant most things for this year. And yet, and yet, the weather of this region is (normally) so benign and the land is the rich alluvial soil of the Saône Valley; it can grow almost anything and quickly too.

We remember our cache of Borough Market borlotti beans and give them all to Markus to plant. It is barely a week later when we go to inspect and there they are – microscopic shoots – tiny seedlings – pushing up through the warm earth. In view of their preciousness they have been particularly well protected from the depredations of the field mice who view them as delicacies of the first order. We go each day to look and marvel.

So there you have it, whatever it might be: a metaphor perhaps for hope and the future; a reflection upon the working of small miracles; or maybe it is just the most satisfying way of using a gift of borlotti beans courtesy of Borough Market and the Oxford Symposium of Food and Cookery.

Di Murrell can be found at www.foodieafloat.com