Welcome, new Gastronomy students!

peaches and corn

It is just about back-to-school season, when the Gastronomy Program will welcome a new group of students.. Here a second batch of their bios and photos. Enjoy getting to know them!


Ashley LopesAshley Lopes grew up in San Francisco, California and earned her undergraduate degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management at New York University. As a food enthusiast with a bottomless stomach for carbs, she enjoys watching cooking shows and making food from scratch. While at NYU, Ashley wrote and edited content for culinary magazines and interned in restaurant kitchens and at the Institute of Culinary Education. Most memorably, she tested and evaluated kitchen appliances as a test kitchen intern at Good Housekeeping Magazine.

After graduating, Ashley worked at a startup in Cape Town, South Africa, before directing her passion for travel to a full-time career at TripAdvisor. Since then, she’s traveled extensively and seen first-hand how food and culture intersect. Most recently, she ventured on a solo backpacking trip through the vibrant food scenes of Southeast Asia and through the spectacular mountains and fjords of New Zealand.

Ashley is excited to move to Boston and join the Gastronomy Program at BU, where she aims to combine her love of food with writing and travel. She looks forward to studying food on a deeper level and connecting with like-minded foodies. Her goal is to pave a meaningful and colorful career in food publishing and culinary tourism.

NormaTentoriNorma Tentori’s fascination with food has been kindled from a young age in Central America where she grew up constantly involved in the kitchen during meal preparation, thanks in great part to her Hispanic and Italian family’s passion, appreciation, interest and enticing diversity in food culture. From there, she called Boston home as she completed her BSBA this past spring in Business Administration with a minor in Nutrition at Simmons College.

As her next career move, she wants to deepen her knowledge in a field that is perfectly aligned with her interest in food, its industry and its prospects in business. She was thrilled to encounter that there is such a program at BU, combining graduate studies in gastronomy and entrepreneurship, right in the city that she has always loved. Norma is confident that this master will satisfy her craving for expertise in gastronomy, as well as provide her with the skills required to intertwine this expertise with brand building and marketing success with a focus in the food / beverage industry




A Fresh Crop of Gastronomy Students

“Farmeretts Harvesting Crops” from the Library of Congress

We are looking forward to welcoming a fresh crop of Gastronomy students to Boston University this fall. Here is the first batch of their bios and photos. Enjoy getting to know them!

Becca Berland is a self-proclaimed ice cream aficionado who was born and raised in BerlandSylvania, Ohio. She attended the University of Pittsburgh and graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and minors in French Studies and Religious Studies. During her four years at Pitt, Becca acted as Editorial Director of Pitt’s chapter of Spoon University, as well as a National Editorial Intern and Elite News Team Member for Spoon HQ in NYC. After she spent a summer interning for Delicious Israel, an Israeli culinary food tour company based out of Tel Aviv, Becca realized that pursuing a career in food media was basically inevitable.

Currently working out of Boston as a Social Media/Content Manger for one of the top fitness coaches in the country, Becca is thrilled to join the Gastronomy program at BU where she can connect with like-minded food enthusiasts (have we mentioned that she named her dog Basil?). Becca plans to hone in on her writing skills in hopes of one day becoming the editor of a food magazine.

Mollie Braen was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with a BA in BraenArt History in the spring of 2015 from the University of Denver and spent her final semester studying abroad at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. Mollie, an avid traveler, eater and cook, moved to Boston in 2015 to pursue work in the art and non-profit community. But her passion and true love was always food, wine and beer. Mollie will be pursuing her masters in gastronomy, concentrating on food policy and business. Her goal is to gain knowledge about the current and past agricultural climate in the United States and to use this comprehensive liberal arts degree to work within the progressing tech and biomedical fields to create healthier, more accessible, and organic produce and products for all. She currently lives in Cambridge with her very funny and mischievous cat, enjoys eating any and all cheeses and is excited to be back in school.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Carolyn Grillo moved to Boston to attend college. She Grillograduated with a BS in Studio Art from Boston College and then attended culinary (pastry) school in Paris, France at Le Cordon Bleu. When Carolyn returned from Paris she worked as a baker at Flour Bakery + Cafe in Boston for two years. Carolyn has been working at America’s Test Kitchen in the Tastings and Testings department for the last two years. Carolyn’s job affords her the opportunity to work in different areas of the company including both print and online content, television, and cookbooks. As time progresses Carolyn has become more interested in the business side of the food industry. Through this experience Carolyn hopes to expand her knowledge, challenge herself, and gain tools to progress in her career.

Swarnata Prabhu was born and raised in Mumbai, a city known for its culinary indulgence and abundance of savors. She believes her childhood had a huge impact and influence in her relationship with food, as there was a lot of cooking, eating and entertaining at home.

Swarnata earned her Bachelor’s in Management Studies from the University of Mumbai prabhu.jpgand then went on to pursue her graduate degree in Human Resources and Industrial Relations at the University of Minnesota to attain an international perspective in her field. She worked for a few years as a human resource professional and then decided to take a break to spend time with her family. During this period, she not only reconnected with her hometown Mumbai, she also decided to pursue her passion. Swarnata started her home based baking venture in Mumbai and went on to learn pastry arts from finest pastry Chefs in India. She says her culinary journey has just started. Swarnata has worked in the pastry department of a five star hotel in India, mentored and taught culinary students, indulged in food photography and explored unusual food sources (protein packed bugs in Cambodia). She not only enjoys experiments in her kitchen but has utmost fun eating, exploring and learning about new foods.

Swarnata feels confident that the gastronomy program at Boston University will equip her with a fulfilling career in the ever changing and challenging food world. She wants to focus on food policy and communications to make an impact as a food advocate, chef and educator.

The Importance of Hospitality in Kazakhstan

We continue our series of posts from the Anthropology of Food class (ML 641) in which students reflect on current issues, discuss assignments they have worked on, or address topics of particular interest to them. Today’s post is from Kaitlin Valli.

When I first started looking into Kazakhstan for my final project, I wasn’t sure what I’d find—I chose it a bit haphazardly, simply because the country was huge and I had realized, looking at the map, that I knew almost nothing about it. But as I looked into it, I was interested to see that a strong culture of hospitality developed there centuries ago and is still an identity marker today. The importance of sharing food and drink is a common theme across cultures, of course, but in Kazakhstan it seemed to take on another level of significance. The Kazakh language has dozens of words for different types of guests, and many proverbs referring to the blessing a guest brings to the family, which range from reverent (“If a guest comes, abundance comes with him or her”) to cautionary (“A guest sits briefly, but notices a lot”) to outright threatening (“If you don’t accept the guest, there won’t be any happiness or abundance in your home.”)

Kaz_national dish
Source: “Kazakh Cuisine” from Tours to Kazakhstan

That a culture of being a good host and gracious guest evolved makes practical sense—back when people were nomadic and spread across the vast steppe, it was wise to be generous with a visitor, as a host did not know when they would need that same kind of hospitality themselves. But a guest was more than that—a visitor also meant entertainment and an excuse for a feast, as well a very necessary connection to the outside world. A guest was harbinger of nourishment of all kinds.

The russification of Kazakhstan means that even today, after attempts at language revival, only 74% of its citizens understand the spoken Kazakh language, while 94% understand Russian (Lillis 2017). And yet, after years of adapting to Soviet rule, the traditional value of hospitality persists. It has become a deeply intertwined aspect of Kazakh identity and culture, to the point where the ability to be a good host or hostess is considered an important criteria for judgment.

Photo by Ryan Bell, NPR The Plate

Though the importance of hospitality has persisted, the customs around hospitality have naturally changed over time. Today, to cut down on time required, Kazakh women may turn to prepared foods instead of making their own, and alcohol consumption has decreased as a result of the increased cost of entertaining. But though traditions have evolved, especially in big cities, they are still vital. Guests should not leave without having at least tasted the meal offered, and hosts will at the very least offer tea. Using beautiful dishware is still common, and hosts will pour a little tea at a time, as pouring a large cup at once would signify that they want their guest to leave sooner.

The studies and ethnographies I encountered conclude the same thing—Kazakh people “cannot live without hospitality, without guests, without a table set and ready to receive guests” (Charkyroglu 2014, 127). But I think a woman profiled in one of my readings expressed it best: “If you can’t make a big party to celebrate your son’s engagement, then why live on this earth” (Michaels 2007, 157)?

 Works cited:

Chakyroglu, Altynshash Kurmanali, and Botagoz Suiyerkul. 2014.  “Representation of the Concept “Hospitality” in the Kazakh Language.” Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 136: 124-128.

Lillis, Joanna. 2017.  “Kazakhstan: Astana Wants Kazakhstanis to Speak Kazakh.” EurasiaNet.org. Accessed July 21, 2017. www.eurasianet.org/node/62424

Michaels, Paula. 2007. “An Ethnohistorical Journey through Kazakh Hospitality.” In Everyday Life in Central Asia: Past and Present, ed. Jeff Sahadeo and Russell Zanco, 145-159. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Course Spotlight: Food and Society

Dr. Karen Metheny will teach Food and Society  (MET ML 712) on Thursday evenings during the fall 2017 semester, and has prepared this overview of the class.

»How do social institutions shape the way we think about food? Our ability to access food?

»How do work schedules and family dynamics shape or constrain the family meal?

»Do social classes and institutions affect the way we shop? The food we prefer?

In Food and Society, students will examine these kinds of questions and look specifically at how social groups, categories, and institutions shape, structure, or are structured by food-related practices. We will look at multiple contexts of food production, access, procurement, and consumption, including rural agricultural sites, urban homesteads, grocery shopping, CSAs, and food assistance programs. We will also examine the intersection of food practices with class, ethnicity, race, age, and gender.

We will engage in a range of exercises to explore methods (visual sociology, food chain analysis, surveys and questionnaires, interviews) that can be applied to a final research project. The research project offers students a wonderful opportunity to pursue in-depth analysis of key topics in food studies. A sample of past projects includes:

  • focused analysis of the role of ethnic food trucks as potential agents of taste expansion, authenticity, or cultural appropriation
  • food as cultural capital among millennials
  • a comparative study of Haymarket and Boston Public Market in the context of creating social well-being and a ‘sense of community’
  • the mission and sustainability of The Daily Table
  • the food landscape of Jamaica Plain
  • imagined kitchenspace
  • dinner on demand services as cultural capital
  • functional foods and grocery shopping through the lens of yogurt
foos and society
A sample from Gastronomy student Keith Duhamel’s project, “‘This Little Piggy Went to Market’: Developing a Sense of ‘Community’ under a Cosmopolitan Canopy.”

Students have utilized Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram as sources of data, conducted surveys through Facebook, created photo essays and videos, and collected oral interviews to complete their projects. Students will also have the opportunity to hear from a number of area food scholars and activists, and we will work with Dr. Bob Cadigan from the Applied Social Sciences department to create and implement surveys and questionnaires. Hope to see you in class!

MET ML 712, Food and Society, will meet on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:45 pm, starting on September 7, 2017. Registration information can be found here.


Poison and Food Taboos

Our summer series, Perspectives from Anthropology of Food, continues with this post from Gastronomy student Madoka Sasa.

Blowfish-pot as part of a family new year dinner.
The center of the dish is skin of blowfish. (photo credit: Madoka Sasa)

In the article “Anthropology of Food,” R. Kenji Tierney and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney (2012, 118) describe blowfish consumption in Japan:

Not all objectively “edible” items are regarded as food for a people, even in times of severe food shortages. For example, frogs are abhorred by the Ainu, while the French consider them a great delicacy. Some Japanese men relish blowfish, whose poison can kill instantly, not necessarily for its taste but in order to demonstrate masculinity.

I was impressed. This is the first time I had read that Japanese men eat blowfish to show their masculinity.

According to a brochure issued by the Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association (2002), Japanese people have been eating blowfish since the Jomon period (14000 B.C. – 4 B.C.). Nowadays, due to advances in processing technology, if you eat blowfish that is properly prepared, you will rarely get poisoned. However, blowfish poisoning has caused a lot of deaths throughout history, because there are different poisonous parts depending on types, and there are some types of blowfish that are difficult to distinguish from each other.

In researching food rules, preferences, taboos, and avoidance, many scholars have pointed out that accepting an invitation to a feast may not only be an act of solidarity but the invitation itself may also be a test of loyalty for the community (Bloch 1999; Carlson 1990; Nell 2015). Considering the question of why Japanese people continue to eat such dangerous fish, it seems reasonable to suggest that it is a show of masculinity rather than consumption for taste. As we know that there is a possibility of poisoning, this is a pretty serious test showing masculinity and loyalty. But this story leads me to ask another question. For whom did they eat blowfish? In other words, for whom did they take such a risk?

Indeed, it seems that the blowfish eating habit in Japan has sparked many such discussions over its long history. For example, in the brochure of the Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association (2002), it is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi issued a ban on eating blowfish, as many samurai who gathered in Shimonoseki (a famous city for blowfish) were poisoned. In the Edo period (1573–1603), many feudal domains decided to ban eating blowfish. According to the Association for Japanese History and Travel (2014), it is said that when the head of a family died of blowfish poisoning, the family had its lineage abolished by the daimyō feudal lord, because “the head had lost his life due to his gluttonousness, though he was supposed to serve the daimyō at the risk of his life.”

On the other hand, Matsuo Bashō, a famous haiku poet in the Edo era, wrote a poem about blowfish (Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association 2002, 15):

Awanu koi Omoi kiru yoru  Fukuto-jiru.  (逢わぬ恋 思い切る夜 ふくと汁)

This is a poem about a broken heart. The speaker says, “I decided to give up because I cannot meet you. As I am so desperate, I will eat blowfish soup tonight.” It can be said that it is a poem that expresses a very disappointed feeling. But at the same time, it is somewhat humorous, implying that a broken heart is an excuse for eating blowfish soup, which is delicious but forbidden.

In addition to this, Bashō says, “You also have a relish of red snapper, but you go out of your way to eat blowfish. I will only just say that you are unwise” (Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association 2002, 15). It seems that we have no choice but to be amazed by the insatiable desire for eating blowfish among Japanese males, despite the serious danger of dying and becoming unable to fulfill our obligations.

From these descriptions, the following conclusion can be drawn. While there is a ruling class that prohibits people from eating blowfish to prevent them from dying, people in general cannot control their desire to eat. According to the Japan Fisheries Resources Conservation Association (2002), eating blowfish was pretty popular among ordinary people in the Edo era. In other word, regarding the question “for whom are they eating blowfish?” it seems that the answer is “for myself.”

To “eat to be happy” is too obvious. But I imagine that eating blowfish and showing masculinity is also a way to feel happiness, or even to pursue a better life. I can sympathize with the feeling that “I cannot resist eating my favorite food, even if it is not good for my health,” whether 400 years ago or today. In the same way, the act of showing masculinity by eating puffer fish is an act that I can understand as reasonable if I know when, who, and under what circumstances it occurred. And this resonates with one of the themes of anthropology, understanding other cultural perspectives. For example, the people of Malagasy, observed by Maurice Bloch (1999), ingest an “antidote” when they have to eat with people from different villages or distant relatives. This helps eliminate discomfort and stress caused by unintentional shortening of the distance with a person who is not close. Although their culture is quite different from mine, the situations where people feel stressed are similar. In other words, even though the act of other cultures seems to be unusual, I think the feeling underlying the act is often understandable for us: making good relationships with others, satisfying self-respect, or relieving stress. So it is very interesting for me to find the similarity of mind beyond time and culture, and to see each culture’s interpretation of the world that is used to make life more comfortable.

Madoka Sasa

It is well known that various cultures around the world have “food” that is “good to eat” which is unacceptable for people in other cultures, for example, clay, dogs, insects, dolphins and so on. However, the reason for eating them could be something which many people can feel sympathy toward. It makes me more interested in thinking about food rules, preferences, taboos, and avoidance.




Association for Japanese History and Travel. 2014. “Shimonoseki ni Fuku wo Maneita Fugu.” Accessed June 29, 2017. http://japan-history-travel.com/?p=3950.

Bloch, Maurice. 1999. “Commensality and Poisoning.” Social Research 66 (1):133–49.

Carlson, Robert G. 1990. “Banana Beer, Reciprocity, and Ancestor Propitiation Among the Haya of Bukoba, Tanzania.” Ethnology 29(4): 297–311.

Krögel, Alison. 2009. “Dangerous Repasts: Food and the Supernatural in the Quechua Oral Tradition.” Food and Foodways 17 (2):104–32.

Nell, Cornelia A. 2015. “Commensality and Sharing in an Andean Community in Bolivia.” In Commensality: From Everyday Food to Feast, edited by Susanne Kerner, Cynthia Chou, and Morten Warmind, 165–76. New York: Bloomsbury.

Nihon Suisan Shigen Hogo Kyokai. 2002. Waga Kuni no Suisangyo Shirizu: Fugu. Accessed June 29, 2017. http://www.fish-jfrca.jp/02/pdf/pamphlet/074.pdf.

Tierney, R. Kenji, and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. 2012. “Anthropology of Food.” In Oxford Handbook of Food History, edited by Jeffrey M. Pilcher, 117–34. New York: Oxford University Press.