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Celebrating 40 Years:
Memories and Visions of the Oxford Food Symposium

This will be a very special Kitchen Table for all Symposiasts, old and new. We'll look back to the very first visionary gatherings at St Antony’s and hear the memories and stories of our 40 year-long journey, on to last year’s spaceship that was the VSymp.

Wind the clock back forty years to 1981.  A random collection of philosophers, historians, scholars, non-scholars, readers, writers, scientists, biologists and (mostly) subscribers and contributors to the house-journal, Petits Propos Culinaires, are assembled at St Antony's College, Oxford. The purpose of what was (still is) an informal gathering without academic affiliation is the discussion of food & cookery in its historical and modern context, a subject of interest to all present but not - at Britain's most venerable University - considered worthy of the groves of academe. Things are about to change.  It's a sunny day under the dreaming spires - in memory, isn't it always? - and a group of Symposiasts (chosen designation) are dispersed about the lawn and on the steps of the college's 1950's buildings, eating their bring-your-own lunch (buried salmon, chocolate-covered garlic) and chatting.  Although the morning had seen the presentation of papers on Food in Motion (a subject we'll be revisiting as Portable Food in 2022), there's no question that of equal importance is the interaction between participants from around the globe who would never otherwise meet in person....a situation made doubly accessible by the need, once again this year, to hold our gathering on-line.  The Symposium's Founding Father, Alan Davidson, an early enthusiast for the virtual world, would have been proud of us all.

So: Share your own reminiscences!

Because it is through learning from the past that together we’re able to face the future with all its challenges, constantly changing the conversation, always listening to new voices, and expanding the table.

In celebration of our anniversary and as a gesture of gratitude for all the help and encouragement along the way, this gathering will be free for all, though for technical reasons you’ll still need to register. See you soon , with candles lit on the cake and corks plopping, to get in the mood for "Food and Imagination" at July's Symposium.


Zoom Event Details

24th June 2021
6:00 pm BST

Reading list

The Man Who Ate Everything: about our founder Alan Davidson and his Magnum Opus, the Oxford Companion on Food

Charles Perry’s report in the LA Times on the occasion of our tenth anniversary

Sharon Hudgin’s report from our 30th anniversary

The OFS helped to establish the field of Food Studies, and the progress is summed up in the introduction to Carole Counihan’s Food and Culture Reader

That progress could also be seen in Turkey, as Özge Samanci’s essay about ten years in Ottoman-Turkish food historiography shows

Finally, listen to our Patron Theodore Zeldin’s thoughts about searching for a fuller life


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