A 3-Day Feast amidst Meeting of the Minds in Oxford

Posted by OmarTarakiNiodeFoundation
17 July 2017 | blogpost

The annual Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery (OSFC) brings together writers, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, scientists, chefs and others who specialize in the study of food in history, its place in contemporary societies, and related scientific developments.

The theme of OSFC 2017 is Food and Landscape while next year it will be Seeds and the last three years were Offal: Rejected and Reclaimed Food, Food and Communication, and Food and Markets.

This year, the symposium at St. Catherine’s College, University of Oxford, England, was a meeting of the minds in 30 sessions, attended by more than 300 people from all over the world.

Mealtimes at every OSFC are always special, meticulously prepared, with menu cards designed by Jake Tilton Studio who has been producing all the graphics since 2009, mostly saved by symposiasts for mementos.  Long wooden chairs and tables with white table lamps beautify the imposing dining hall at St. Catz, the largest among the colleges in the University of Oxford.

This is our first experience attending the OSFC; hence, we tried to absorb all the information in the meeting rooms, and made notes  in the dining hall.

Friday Dinner

The Boyne Valley Banquet in association with Ireland’s Ancient East, sponsored by Fáílte Ireland organized by the Boyne Valley Food Series and Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire PhD.

The Boyne Valley, 20 minutes from the City of Dublin, is known as Ireland’s ancient capital with sacred and mythical landscape. Food production and trade at Boyne Valley have been in existence for 10,000 years through its farm produce and seafood, artisan food producers and dedicated chefs, and mostly through compelling food stories.

The dinner organizer assembled a team of chefs, led by Rob Krawczyk, and a number of artisanal foods and drinks producers. In collaboration with Tim Kelsey, the St. Catz head chef, they presented 10 dishes, categorized into ‘blaisíní’ (little tasters), Boyne Valley Board, Farming to Fishing, Tounge to Tail, Cheese and Land of Milk & Honey.

A selection of 10 drinks available ranged from Cockagee Perry and Stameen Apple Juice to Dan Kelly Single Varietal Cider and Boyne Brewhouse Vienna Lager

Saturday Lunch

Landscape: The Undercover Gardener’s Tasting Menu organized by Koppert Cress and Elisabeth Luard.

During lunchtime, St. Catz’s dining tables were full of luxurious micro-greens produced by Koppert Cress Architecture Aromatique. Koppert Cress, a Dutch-based producer under the helm of innovator Rob Baan, specializes in cresses; seedlings of unique plants, with specific effect on the senses either flavor, fragrance, feel or visual.

Cress is a living plant with roots, stems and leaves, which can grow into real plants. They are cultivated at a normal temperature and grow in a greenhouse without soil, under with energy-saving LED light.

We enthusiastically picked and tried the neatly arranged micro-greens with different colors, shapes, and smells, perfect for all food on the table.

The lunch menu consisted of cut-and-come-again summer soup, pick-your-own shoots & leaves, rustic bread with cress butter, and desert: a taste of sweetness. The wine selected was 2015 Saulheim Silvaner Weingut Thörle Rheinhessen Germany

Saturday Dinner

Landscape: Compliments of the Soil—Flavours from the Armenian and Turkish Borderlands organized by Gamze Íneceli and Íhsan Karayazi in association MSA the Culinary Arts Academy.

Saturday evening event at OSFC 2017 was dedicated to how the Turkish-Armenian border conflict can be bridged throughh the two countries thousands of years shared history, especially through food.

At dinner, food came in 3 starters including aubergine, courgette, smoked yogurt and lavash crisps, followed by several fresh dishes such as puff borek with lentil ragu and tarragon yogurt.

The main course was an elaborate braised lamb shank and almond and dried fruit rice. Tempting desserts were kavut roasted what kalva, apricots, milk, ice cream, and dried yogurt flakes.

It was fitting that a number of wines selected came both from Turkey (Kayra) and Armenia (Zorah).

Participants admired a lovely display of an edible installation by food historian Tasha Marks titled 'Within Reach of Every Hand' using produce from both Turkey & Armenia landscape.

A premier screening of a documentary Film Haven’t We Shared Much Bread and Salt Together produced by Kars Urban and Culture Research Association ended the evening of solidarity.

Sunday Lunch

Ploughman’s Lunch: An Aural Reconsideration organized by Ben Houge and David Matchett with food from Borough Market, prepared by Chef Tim Kelsey.

Lunch was special, not only because the food came from Borough Market, a millennia old market, but also because participants could hear the sound of voices in the market recorded by Ben Houge, a Professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Houge is the initiator of food opera, a multisensory dining experience that incorporates cutting edge music technology to achieve a synchronization of music with a meal.

Basically, Ploughman’s Lunch is a midday meal that consists of bread and cheese with pickles. Lunch on the last day of OSFC 2017, however, had many more treats. Drinks were cider and apple juice while breads, butter and tomatoes came with Stichelton, Montgommery cheddar and Yorkshire pickle. The finale was a colorful and tasteful Eton Mess as the finale.

While the intellectual stimulation at the symposium sessions may be recognized as the best among the best of food related meetings, it was the feast and the stories behind all the foods and drinks that enriched the knowledge in the weekend event.

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Images: Omar Niode Foundation