Neurogastronomy: A Flavorful Awakening in the Scientific Community

By Sophie Schwinn

What do you get when you combine the expertise of world class chefs, medical doctors, neuroscientists, agricultural scientists, and lovers of food? Why, the Inaugural Symposium of The International Society of Neurogastronomy, of course! The International Society of Neurogastronomy (ISN) held its first conference on November 7th in Lexington, KY, drawing speakers and attendees from across the country, as well as Canada and the UK.

Neurogastronomy is a very young discipline – the term was coined in 2006 by Dr. Gordon Shepherd — so every session at the symposium brought something completely new to the table. Chefs talked about the importance of making healthy food available to those who need it most and of simply making healthy food taste good. Clinicians spoke about the need to overhaul the food systems in our hospitals. They pointed out that patients can’t thrive by eating tasteless food on plastic trays when what they really need is food that tastes great, brings them joy, and makes them want to be healthy again. Bench scientists shared their findings about how our sense of flavor is ISN_1created in the brain and how our other senses can influence our sense of taste. Agricultural scientists contributed information on how they could provide better quality food to chefs by implementing their new research findings as well.

Several speakers also shared personal stories about loved ones battling illness, especially cancer, and how diet was a key component in their treatment. Clinicians shared the struggles their patients face with extreme treatment plans. Some examples include the success of the ketogenic diet in treating epilepsy and the extreme difficulty of maintaining it, the challenges of chemotherapy, which essentially destroys the patient’s sense of flavor, and the struggle to increase appetite in patients in memory care who have diminished taste and difficulty eating the bland hospital food. Chemotherapy was an ongoing theme, with discussions ranging from whether neuroscientists could uncover more about why it causes an overwhelming metallic taste, to whether chefs can come up with a way to make that metallic flavor palatable, to how we can help chemo patients deal with constantly changing taste aversions.

ISN_3

The progress we could make just by facilitating this interdisciplinary collaboration is astounding. One very basic example was a recent finding that simply serving food on a blue plate can lead to increased appetite in dementia patients because the greater contrast between the food and the plate makes it appear more appetizing. This may seem like an insignificant detail, but for those who have a loved one wasting away in the hospital due to lack of appetite, it’s a ground-breaking discovery!

ISN_2After the conference sessions were over, the lecture hall was abuzz with interdisciplinary conversations. Hospital nutritionists were thanking scientists for sharing their work and discussing how they could implement new findings in their practice right away. Chefs were meeting with scientists to see how they could help facilitate more research and swapping business cards with doctors to start getting food that actually tastes good into hospitals. Scientists were talking with clinicians about their biggest research needs. ISN’s first symposium was an incredible first step to getting the latest scientific findings into the right hands so they can make a positive difference in people’s lives.

 

A Day to Celebrate Food

by Kimi Ceridon

Student Kimi Ceridon recaps October 24th’s Food Day Event in Boston.

IMG_20141023_145511Food Day comes but once a year. With no gimmicks, costumes, bunnies or men in red suits, Food Day in the United States not only celebrates the foods that sustain us but also encourages people to think about their diets and get involved in the policies that impact the food system locally and worldwide. The October 24th celebration grew out of the internationally recognized October 16th World Food Day celebration which honors the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization, a UN organization aimed at eradicating hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

This year, Food Day Massachusetts began with a Food Day Eve celebration at Babson College and continued with an official kick off at the Massachusetts State House the following day.

IMG_20141023_123757Babson’s Food Day Eve Event was served up in “five courses”. The first course started the day off with Andrew Zimmern, Gail Simmons and other panelists telling their own food stories. While Zimmern is probably best known for his television show “Bizarre Foods,” there was nothing bizarre about his commitment to addressing issues of social justice and the food system. In Zimmern’s personal food story, he told how his thinking about the food system has evolved over the years. In recognizing Babson’s leading role in entrepreneurship, he proclaimed that entrepreneurs would save our planet. Following the morning’s panel discussion, the second course was a locally sourced meal set among a group of food entrepreneurs introducing their products. There was everything from Fedwell homemade dog food to Pure Maple Water to egg-free mayo from Hampton Creek and many more.

IMG_20141023_101051The third course had four food entrepreneurs crowd source ideas to address their toughest challenges. It also never hurts to get advice from successful entrepreneurs like Simmons, Zimmern, Tom Ryan of Smashburger and Chef Adam Melonas of Chew Lab. The fourth and fifth courses were squarely aimed at looking at careers in the food industry, and a panel of food industry professionals gave insights on how to get a job in the industry. The day closed with a final panel featuring some of Boston’s most prominent restaurateurs telling their own stories about navigating a food-related career.

Food Day in Massachusetts officially commenced the following morning at the Massachusetts State House. The rainy morning could not dampen the spirits of the crowd gathered in the great hall. In keeping with Food Day’s goal of raising awareness about food policy, the kick off event was centered on the Massachusetts Food System Plan. Food Day represented one of the first milestones for the Massachusetts Food System Planning Team where they reported on outcomes from the statewide listening sessions that occurred earlier in the year. Since the last time Massachusetts had a statewide food system plan was in 1975, there was a lot to be told.

FB_IMG_1414158470877Aside from the Massachusetts Food System Plan, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources Commissioner, Gregory C. Watson, offered a rousing speech outlining the many food-related reasons Massachusetts residents have to celebrate. In keeping with the World Food Day theme, “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth,” Watson outlined how family farms in Massachusetts are leading in innovation saying, “Our real strength stems from our ability – more than that – our willingness to integrate old and new – traditional and innovative.”

In what would be his last Food Day as Massachusetts State Governor, Governor Deval Patrick took the podium. He further recounted the efforts of his administration in making Masssachusetts a leader in farming, agriculture and food policy before proclaiming October 24th Food Day in Massachusetts.

While Food Day was October 24th, there are many ongoing celebrations. Find a celebration near you at FoodDay.org.

Breaking Ground on the Boston Public Market

By Kimi Ceridon

Gastronomy student Kimi Ceridon recaps the groundbreaking ceremony for the Boston Public Market.

BPMBoston is poised to open the first market with all locally sourced products in the nation. On October 9th, the much talked about Boston Public Market held a public ground breaking ceremony on the steps of city hall hitting an important milestone in making this dream a reality. If the crystal blue skies and perfect October weather were good luck signs, then Boston will gather again next summer to celebrate the market’s grand opening.

The Boston Public Market is scheduled to open in 2015. The 28,000 square foot space will host a year-round market offering New England produce, meat, prepared foods and artisan products directly to consumers. Located in the heart of Boston on the first floor of the Haymarket T-station, the market aims to provide the greater Boston area with a single location for buying directly from local producers. Additionally, the market is incorporating resources to improve local food access for all income levels.

Morningstar said, “What makes it even more special is that the Haymarket vendors have operated alongside our location for over 120 years. We are simply adding to a long-standing tradition.” However, since the Boston Public Market is focused on local purveyors, it is unclear whether the current vendors from outdoor weekend market at Haymarket qualify as Boston Public Market vendors. These vendor do not necessarily sell products exclusively from New England. To participate in the market, vendor applications were submitted and reviewed earlier in 2014

Liz Morningstar
Liz Morningstar

The ceremony was a who’s who of Boston politics with appearances by Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Marty Walsh, Senator Anthony Pertuccelli, and Representative Aaron Miclewitz. Gubernatorial Candidate Martha Coakley was also spotted in the crowd. Liz Morningstar, the CEO of the Boston Public Market, kicked off the ceremony graciously thanking the many sponsors who supported this endeavor. Acknowledging the importance of food to culture, she explained, “Food transcends so many issues in our society.”

Before introducing Governor Patrick, the Boston Public Market EBT/SNAP Program Manager, Shaquille Jones, talked about his work to include a fully integrated EBT and SNAP program at the market from day one. The market also has a goal of making healthy food accessible through cooking, shopping, nutrition and fitness classes including demonstrations in a 3000 square foot teaching kitchen.

Gov. Deval Patrick
Gov. Deval Patrick

Governor Patrick then took the stage and proudly proudly declared, “I am a foodie.” Although the Boston Public Market will not open before Governor Patrick leaves office, the market represents a significant accomplishment of his administration. As he explained, the project required coordinating across many agencies, advocacy groups, industry representatives, and citizen groups including the City of Boston, the greater Commonwealth, The Trustees of Reservations, the Department of Transportation and the many producers of local products in Massachusetts. One of those producers, Jared Auerback of Red’s Best seafood shop, explained that the market will help him and other producers bring great products directly to customers.

Mayor Walsh, Senator Pertuccelli, and Representative Miclewitz followed up by praising the effort that led up to the groundbreaking. They look forward to showcasing the city through the market and welcome the jobs and tourism the market brings to the city. The groundbreaking represents 13 years of Morningstar’s hard work and advocacy. Thursday’s milestone was clearly a welcome celebration.

A Tasteful Palette: A dozen pieces of food art

In the BU Gastronomy program we look at food through many different lenses including gender, culture, history, and nutrition, but we rarely get the chance to observe food through the eyes of an artist. While the culinary arts is clearly an expression of art in its own right, some modern artists are pushing the boundaries of food and idea of the edible to places beyond the plate. Sometimes food serves as the medium and other times it is the concept or inspiration for a piece. To investigate this unique branch of Food Studies, take a scroll through a curated collection of a few new art installations (all available for online viewing) and let the creative juices flow.


The following painting was created by Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo and is, by far, one of the most well known pieces of food art.

photo credit: Smithsonian

Instead of paint, some modern artists prefer to achieve a similar portrait look using real food.

photo credit: The Vegetable Museum

Other artists use food for inspiration and employ other mediums…like string and sequins…

photo credit: Kate Jenkins

…or paper…

photo credit: Prim Prim Studio

Some artists use food to create striking geometric (and organic) creations…

photo credit: Sakir Gokcebag

photo credit: Carl Kleiner

Others use food to build new things…like wine glasses made of molten sugar…

photo credit: Amelia Desnoyers

…and architectural structures, like this one made entirely out of sticks of gum…

photo credit: Design Boom for Jeremy Laffon

And others use art to show new ways to interpret the same old foods…

photo credit: Beth Galton

photo credit: Red Hongyi

photo credit: David Schwen

photo credit: Design Boom for Luciana Rondolini


So, are you feeling hungry or inspired?

The Fight for Fair Food: Taranta’s Collaboration with CIW

by Alex Galimberti

photo credit CIW

For over a year Taranta dedicated itself to learning and supporting what can be considered the most important element to creating a sustainable food system: ensuring good work conditions for our nation’s farmworkers. It all started during the Chef’s Collaborative Annual Summit that took place last September in New Orleans. There, the Taranta crew met Gerardo Reyes from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW). Through the connection established with the CIW, Chef Jose Duarte, general manager Chris Titus, and I took a trip to Immokalee where we became aware of exploitative conditions and cases of modern day slavery in the tomato fields of Florida. By understanding the scale of the issues addressed by CIW’s Fair Food campaign, we realized that chefs and restaurant workers represent the final link connecting the food system from farmworker to consumer. Our position as restaurant professionals enables us to raise awareness to our consumers and also question the practices of large food producers.

Through the support of Star Chefs, Chef Duarte assembled a panel entitled “The Human Cost of Food.” Panelists included Gerardo Reyes, author of Tomatoland Barry Estabrook, and Chef Duarte. Together, they presented at the Starchefs International Chefs Congress in New York City. Discussed was CIW’s key strategy–requesting the largest tomato buyers in the country to sign into the Fair Food Agreement. Some of these buyers include Whole Foods Market, Trader Joes, Aramark, and Sodexo. These buyers promise exclusive purchasing from producers who are inspected and verified by an independent auditor. Approved producers comply with a basic set of standards, such as zero tolerance for physical abuse and sexual harassment of farmworkers, just to name a few.

panelists Chef Duarte, Gerardo Reyes, and Barry Estabrook

One of the main points of contention during the three-day congress was Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.’s stance on the Fair Food Agreement. When the congress was held, Chipotle had not signed the agreement. The company’s research and development chefs Nate Appleman and Joel Holland debated with Reyes over the level of involvement of chefs with labor and human rights issues. Both sides left the congress with a wider scope of awareness of the variable viewpoints of industry chefs. This debate struck a chord with the Taranta crew, for sustainable food cannot exist without the fair treatment of farmworkers. On October 4th, Chipotle chairman Steve Ellis signed the Fair Food Agreement with representatives from the CIW. The Taranta crew and I are happy that such an important company in our industry is now an ally in this cause. The battle is far from over, but we believe our efforts sharing this story with the chef community have paid off.

Alex is a Gastronomy graduate student. He is currently the Beverage Director and Chef Instructor at Taranta Restaurant, Boston. Read Alex’s complete post and learn more about Taranta’s visit to Imokalee here.