December 14, 2014

Themester Highlights





December 7, 2014

“Food on the Home Front: Wartime Production, Preservation and Deprivation on the IU Campus” Exhibit Q&A

Carrie Schwier is Assistant Archivist with University Archives and Records Management and organized the exhibit.

What inspired this exhibit?
Conveniently, this year’s Themester topic on food movements coincides with campus celebrations in observance of the 100th anniversary of WWI. It seemed like an excellent opportunity to tie into both.
In your opinion, which pieces are of most interest? Why?
I think the most interesting parts of the exhibit are the stories of individual students, faculty and community members and how they chose to participate in the war effort. There is the story of sisters Lorena and Dorrit Degner who withdrew from classes during WWI to work on their family’s farm, the Hennel- Henricks family who chronicled their efforts at food preservation through canning, drying and ingredient substitution, and during WWII IU faculty and staff such as Football Coach Bo McMillan and Lee Norvelle who planted gardens on campus and even in their own front yards. I always feel that a local connection to history makes it more accessible to students and in this case the above mentioned students and faculty occupied the same spaces as those of today. I think that link is powerful.
Why will the issues represented apply to students?
With the increase in present-day discussions about the local-food movement, back-yard gardening, and food sustainability it’s important to remember that these aren’t totally *new* topics of consideration. There is always something to be learned from the way our ancestors approached adversity and these same issues. Wartime food-movements also offer an excellent lense from which to explore issues such as community involvement, the role of the university and wartime on the home front.

The “Food on the Home Front” exhibit will be on display at IU Archives until December 19th. The Archives are open weekdays from 8am-5pm.

December 1, 2014

“Book Bites: Texts that Influenced and Reflected How America Eats” Exhibit Q&A

Vivian Halloran is Associate Professor of American Studies and English at IU and organized the exhibit.

How does this exhibit fit the theme of Themester 2014?

The goal of the exhibit, Book Bites, was to highlight the variety of texts, from plays and travel journals, novels, cookbooks, memoirs and even comic books through which people find the occasion to write about food. The Lilly Library has a vast collection of cookbooks, and I wanted to showcase some of their valuable pieces, but in the context of the other books that talk about multiple aspects of the food industry, including not just eating and cooking, but farming, hunting, and butchering as well.  These topics are quite in line with the theme of Themester 2014, Eat, Drink, Think: Food from Art to Science.

How was the range of texts chosen?​ What qualities were sought? Who looked for them?

I selected all of the texts during the summer.  I spent many hours consulting with the Lilly staff, especially Rebeca Baumann and Jim Canary, who helped out immensely, especially with the layout.  I credit Jim with making the exhibit look so good. 

The criteria I used while selecting the texts was the following:  I wanted the first cookbook of American food published in the US, the first cookbook published in Indiana, and the original play that gave us the expression "the melting pot." Then, I ran across the IU Cookbook and used that as a touchstone as well in the first panel since the idea for that was to situate the viewer and the exhibit itself in the nation, the state, and the university.   From there, I wanted a panel to highlight the range of cookbooks available to the home cook to serve as supplements to whatever formal culinary instruction she received at home. The target audience was primarily female at that point, though some instructional manuals began to make the case for men and women to pursue cooking as a profession.  Then, I wanted a case on tastemakers, which highlighted the luminaries in the American cooking scene, another case on food literature and social problems like adulteration in the meat processing system and the Dust Bowl.  Finally, the exhibit culminates by examining current trends in cuisine, such as molecular gastronomy, adapted for the home kitchen.   

What can people expect to learn from this exhibit?

People who view the exhibit will learn that there have been vigorous and complex conversations about food safety, ethnic cuisines, farm-to-table, and paying food workers a living wage being carried out through multiple literary genres since the nation's founding. Americans have been "foodies" for a long time, despite the current negative press about the Standard American Diet; our national dedication to thinking about, being entertained by, and advocating on behalf of specific food causes are part and parcel of the food legacy that defines us as the "breadbasket of the world" in more ways than one. 

The “Book Bites” exhibit will be on display at the Lilly Library until December 15th. The Lilly Library is open weekdays 9am-6pm and Saturdays 9am-1pm.

Ashli Hendricks
2014 Intern

November 16, 2014

Oxfam Hunger Banquet Q&A

Emily Metallic is president of IU's Oxfam Club.
What is a Hunger Banquet and how does it engage themes of Themester 2014?
The Hunger Banquet is an interactive simulation of inequality as it relates to the global food system. The signature Oxfam America event began 41 years ago, and this will be the Oxfam Club at IU's fourth Hunger Banquet. The event is one of Oxfam's key outreach tools as a humanitarian and development organization that seeks lasting solution to hunger, poverty and injustice.

The Hunger Banquet touches upon several themes of the Eat, Drink, Think Themester, including the systems, distribution, politics and rights associated with food. Through engaging role playing, the Hunger Banquet allows guests to better conceptualize the reality of poverty and hunger, as well as reflect upon its implications and connection to their own lives. 
Where does the banquet locate the problem of food insecurity? Does it focus on a region?
The Hunger Banquet takes a global approach, highlighting food insecurity in the U.S. and around the world. Oxfam is a human rights-based organization, and believes all humans have much to learn from each other, regardless of nationality. The scope of the Hunger Banquet reflects its stance of international solidarity.
What consequences and solutions of food insecurity does the banquet present?
When one does not know where their next meal is coming from, education, health, and well being suffer dramatically. The banquet presents these individual challenges, but also its collective negative impact on economic development and political stability. The banquet calls for more resilient food systems that can bear climate change impacts, more efficient food aid delivery and improved social and environmental practices in supply chains of major food corporations. But most inspiring is its call for conscious, engaged consumers to use their dollars and citizen power to take action to create a better food system. 

The Oxfam Hunger Banquet will take place Tuesday, November 18th, in the Union Street Center Auditorium at 7:30pm.

Ashli Hendricks
2014 Intern

November 11, 2014

Fighting for “Real” Food in College: The Bittman Enlightenment

As the special events coordinator intern for Themester this year I was honored to help plan one of our largest events of the semester, being a panel discussion with New York Times food writer Mark Bittman. I gained invaluable knowledge on the logistics of planning large-scale events, I got to meet the “Bitt” man himself, and I ate some really great food along the way. The whole experience was wonderful—for the most part. There’s something that Bittman said that has unsettled me. When our panel asked him what college students could do to have a better and more sustainable food outlook he said, among other things, “to demand more out of our campus foods.”

Having worked at a fairly sustainable on-campus dining hall for most of my undergrad, I wondered how much more RPS could do. However, after a discussion with some IU faculty members I realized something. There seems to be a common misconception that our pre-packaged and pre-made foods are cheaper than our fresh food. I have done the ordering for a dining hall, folks—this is simply not the case. The only advantage that pre-packaged and pre-made foods have over fresh foods is that they have a longer shelf life. It seems ludicrous to me that, with thousands of people needing to be fed everyday, that we should be so concerned about shelf life. I now see that Bittman was right: we are not using fresh foods to our advantage on campus.

What is more, we are also not using our staff to our advantage. With outdated and tired recipes, some dining halls aren’t incorporating any new, fresh foods or ingredients into their menu. What is a bigger travesty is that we are not using our staff to the best of their ability either. RPS staff members bridge a wide array of cultures, and many of these workers from different countries and cultures do not get to express themself or their culture’s food ways. I hope that this has also resonated with other on-campus workers in the way that it has with me. I agree with Bittman now, we should demand more out of our campus food: it’s something we can very easily demand from the untapped resources we currently have available to us.

Shelby Plummer
2014 Intern