12-14 July 2019 at St Catherine’s College, Oxford

Report by Laura Shapiro

It was Friday afternoon, we were piling into the lecture theater for the traditional 4:00 pm welcome and plenary session, and as I looked around at the excited faces I remembered all over again why for me the Symposium is the most exhilarating weekend of the year. It’s the people, it’s that amazing array of people — 250 this time, from 27 countries, and everyone in the room certifiably food-crazed, bringing something unique to share by way of knowledge or ideas or dreams.

This year’s theme was “Food and Power,” a topic that inspired an immensely varied range of papers and lots of lively, sometimes contentious debate. Since the papers themselves will be made available, I’ll concentrate here on the plenary talks — four of them, all focused in one way or another on the way the food industry has amassed power of a practically immeasurable size and scope.

I looked around at the excited faces I remembered all over again why for me the Symposium is the most exhilarating weekend of the year.

But before I get into that, I have to say a word about Aglaia Kremezi’s brief presentation on Friday afternoon at the end of the session, just before we broke and made our way to drinks and dinner. It was a spoken memoir: she called it “Power Lunch of a Different Kind” and evoked what she said was the worst part of every day during her childhood — the family midday meal.

“My father was lord and master,” she said, and the females in the family were expected to be submissive. Everything had to be ready at 2:00 pm exactly as he liked it or his anger erupted. Contradict him, and you got a slap. These lunches were miserable times, Aglaia said; and she grew up determined to have a life exactly the opposite of the one he wanted for her.

Logo, poster and menus designed by Jake Tilson

Plenary Sessions


Joanna Blythman

The Power of Enjoyment in the Face of Industrialized Food

Roberta Wedge

Whoever Wields the Pen, Stirs the Pot: Wikipedia’s Power to Shape Reality introduced

Marion Nestle

Power in the Food System: Big Food vs. Everyone Else

Carolyn Steel

Tale of Two Cities: Paris, London and the Political Power of Food

Zita Cobb

Lessons from a Small Island for a Small Planet

OFS Rising Scholar

Siobhan Dooley

Serving Up A Slice of Africa: Food, Drink, Race, and Identity in Empire Adventure Stories


OFS Young Chefs

Monica Bettson, Aisling Kearns, Kardelen Soyalp, Yolanda Wu



Food & (mostly) Women, organized by Roberta Wedge.

Folger Manuscript transcribathon

Organized by Heather Wolfe with Amanda Herbert.


After dinner events

Food and Power:

An Interviewer Confronts a Politician to Reveal Uncomfortable Truths about Our Food Systems, Len Fisher and Elisabeth Luard


Altar de Meurtos A Different Kind of Power

A place to honor loved ones and share memories, culinary and otherwise.

Blood Sugar:

Creatively Remaking Sweetness and Power, on the Stage and in the Archives, Amanda Herbert


Engaging with food policy

A convivial discussion hosted by David Matchett from Borough Market and Ellie Costigan from Market Life.

Parallel sessions & Papers

— Imagining Fritter Power: Diaspora Centered at the Margin
Azri Amram
— Challenging the Power Relations: Hybrid Foods in a Palestinian Town in Israel
Vidya Balachander
— Ammachis: Challenging Gender Norms in Sri Lanka’s North
Janet Beizer
— Shooting them Softly: Photographing Lower-Class Eaters in Belle Époque Paris.
Paul Brummell
— Gastrodiplomacy and the UK Diplomatic Network
Stephanie Bryan
— ‘Under the Cover of Savory Vapors’—Opossums, Power, and Jim Crow Politics.
Voltaire Cang
— Sushi, Sake, and Women
Judy Corser
— Potlach: Ceremonial Food and Family Power.
Kathryne Crossley
— ‘Using their native cunning’: Oxford College Servants and Their Perquisites in the Nineteenth Century.
Allison N Fisher
— Food as Power in the Letters of Isabelle d’Este
Paula Fujiwara
— Food Production, Consumption and Resistance by Japanese Americans Incarcerated by the US Government During World War II
Sasha Gora
— Muckamuck: Restaurants, Labour, and the Power of Representation.
Melissa C. Gouge, Jennifer L. Hostetter
— Hunger Strikes as Weapons of Resistance inside Farms and Prisons in the United States
Jennifer L. Holm
— Eating French, Being French: Gastronomy and National Identity in Contemporary France
Fozia Ismail
— Food, Identity Politics, and Political Correctness in the UK
Arielle Johnson
— Marx in my Food Technology? …the Recent Dialectical Emergence of Post-Modernity in Cuisine.
Alexandra Ketchum
— Counter Narratives: American and Canadian Feminist Restaurants from 1972-Present.
D Koczanowicz, L Koczanowicz
— Weaponizing Food: Communism, the Democratic Transition and Transformations of Taste.
Michael Krondl
— Sugar and Show: Power, Conspicuous Display and Sweet Banquets During Henri III’s 1547 Visit to Venice
Kesia Kvill
— Canadian Women, Government, and Power at the 1917 Food Control Convention
Christopher Laurent
— Making Yakiniku Japanese: Erasing the Korean Contribution from Japan’s Food Culture
Don Lindgren
— American Community Cookbooks and Women’s Empowerment in the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Andrea Maraschi
— The Power of Eating Together, or the Story of Why Banquets were the Core of Marriage in the Past
Jacob Matthews
— Not in One Place: Parenteral Nutrition and Time-Space Compression.
Frieda Moran
— Encounters of Food and Power in the Australian Colonial Contact Zone. Hanover M Vale – The United States’ Attempt to Restructure Philippine Foodways Following the Philippine-American War.
Simona Moti
— Meat and Power in Communist Romania.
Alice Mulhearn, Guila Nicolini
— Going Hungry in the Magdalene Laundries (1922-1996)
Samantha Presnal
— Everything but the Kitchen Syndicate … France’s First Trade Union for Female Cooks.
Christian Reynolds
— Sustainable Gastronomy: Power and Energy Use in Food – Is It Possible to Fight Climate Change through Cookery?
Charity Robey
— ‘Mom’ vs the FDA: How Laurie Nolan made the FDA Change the Tilefish Warning and Then Cooked Dinner.
Or Rosenboim
— A Food Utopia? Imagining Libya in Italy’s Liberal Empire.
Laura Shapiro
— ‘To Make the Whole World Homelike’: Gender and Power in the Food Revolution
Richard Shepro
— True Bread, Pizza Napoletana and Wedding Cakes: The Changing Ways Legal Power Has Shaped Bakers’ Lives.
Koby Song-Nichols
— The Culinary Identity Constructions of the Eaton Sisters
David Sutton
— Lebanese Sea Power: Food and the Phoenicians. Cordula Christina Peters – Staging: Exploitation of young dreamers or generosity of successful chefs?
Mehmet Faith Tatari
— From Switzerland to South Caucasus: Colonial Legacy, Artisanal Dairy Farming, and Gravyer Cheese.
Svetlana Tcareva
— Cannibalism and Power: Resituating the Narratives of Post-Soviet Foodways Through Vladimir Sorokin’s Feast.
Carolyn Tillie
— The Shared Power of Hunger Artists and Viennese Actionists.
Nicholas Tošaj
— Empire of Wheat: Bread, Power and Colonialism in the French Empire (1890-1940).
Anne Urbancic
— There’s a Crisis. There’s a Crisis: The Power of Laws and Lies in the Italian Fascist Kitchen
Nina Vizcarrando
— Subsistence Depression in Alaska: Who Gets Paid?
Jessica Kenyatta Walker
— The ‘Power’ of Health in Soul Food: Perspectives from Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor.
Féilim Ó Cuireáin
— Cooking in Calais: Examining the Creation of Food Sovereignty when Distributing Food in the Jungle.