The University Record, October 22, 1996

Theme semester's main course to be served up
this weekend

Raymond Grew, professor of history, left, and Adam Drewnowski, professor of public health, look aver the papers to be presented at the international 'Food in Global History' conference, Oct. 25-27. Grew and Drewnowski organized the conference, whi ch is the 'main course' of the Food in Global History Theme Semester.

Photo by Rebecca A. Doyle

By Debbie Gilbert
News and Information Services


The main course of the U-M "Food in Global History" theme semester is about to be served.

Some 30 scholars from a cornucopia of disciplines will explore food and food systems as they intersect with historical and global forces to reshape cultural beliefs, economic development and human health, at the U-M's international "Food in Global History" conference, Oct. 25-27, fourth floor, Rackham Building.

Conference organizers hope that by studying food as a source of identity and object of exchange, presenters and participants will discover "interconnections among societies and achieve some new insights into history seen globally."

Raymond Grew, professor of history and a conference organizer, explained in an interview with Gannett News Service, that as prosperity came to one nation after another, patterns of eating changed.

"You can draw a line on the map of Europe in different centuries, watching white bread move across dark bread, rising with prosperity," he noted.

Adam Drewnowski, professor of human nutrition at the School of Public Health and an organizer and presenter at the conference, added that the conference's historically complex view of food is overdue.

"In my own field, for instance, contemporary nutritionists still tend to view food as fuel, but they are beginning to realize that health and pleasure can coexist at the table. We need to combine the biomedical approach with the social sciences to see how culture and society shape our diet and health."

Conference participants will have read their colleagues' draft papers before hand, and, instead of listening to presentations, will summarize, comment, debate and spin off of those ideas during lively panel discussions that will include audience participation.

From 9 a.m.-noon Friday, the conference will focus on the "Contemporary Reshaping of the Human Diet."

Topics will include nutrition transitions in developing nations and the reasons for higher consumption of sugars and fats worldwide; the impact of political events on diet and health, and the European "Mad Cow Disease" crisis.

From 2:45-5 p.m. Friday, the conference will examine "Processes of Change."

Topics will include the role of multinational corporations, the biogenetics revolution in food and nutrition; food trends in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union; and U.S. food policy in Africa.

From 9:15-noon Saturday, the conference will focus on "Crossing Cultures."

Topics will cover food, migration and gender in North Africa and France; the role of food staples and relishes in human diets; the invention of the restaurant in the 18th century; and the impact of New World foods on China and India.

From 2:15-5 p.m. Saturday, the focus will be on "Food Rituals and Social Barriers." Topics will include food and the counterculture (e.g. "brown foods in the 1960s," Roman spectacles and banquets of the powerful, and the connection between rice and the Japanese national identity.

At 9:15 a.m. Sunday, Grew will conclude the conference with a summary of the new ideas and perspective developed regarding "Food in Global History" by the participants, discussants and the audience.