Course Spotlights: Food & Art, Gender & Food

Read on for a sneak peek into some of the Gastronomy classes we will be offering this Spring. Registration information can be found here.

Food and Art

Laura Ziman will teach Food and Art during the Spring 2018 semester and has prepared this Course Spotlight.

Looking at the earliest images, tableware and sculpture of food from the Ancient World to the contemporary, we will see the historic changes in objects and artwork that refer to cuisine.  Discoveries will be made in the purposes and meaning of imagery and three-dimensional objects through time from a variety of cultures.

Artists’ lives will be explored through their work, the time they worked in and their country of origin leading to greater understanding of the art they created.

Posters, cookbooks, advertisements, films and models of food all contribute to the visual cornucopia we will explore.

This course includes trips to The Museum of Fine Arts, which contains food art from Mesopotamia to the 21st century. Ancient Greek oil pitchers, an American dining table from 19th Century Dorchester to 20th Century table settings will be visited.

We will visit a food market and view the artistry in food arrangement and packaging. Food artists will be visiting the class to share the inspiration and discussion of techniques used in making their art.

Gender and Food

Dr. Megan J. Elias will teach Gender and Food during the Spring 2018 semester and has prepared this Course Spotlight.

Can a woman eat a Manwich? Can Dad produce Mom’s home cooking? And how is the movement away from gender binaries reflected in foodways? In Food and Gender we will explore ways in which language and behaviors around food both reinforce and challenge gender hierarchies and restrictive norms.  Using frameworks developed in gender studies we will interrogate our contemporary foodscape through close readings of many media, including food blogs, magazines, TV shows and advertisements. We will also include our own cooking histories and habits in our research and discussion, taking note of when and how cultural assumptions about gender restrict our choices in the kitchen.

The course will include reading, research, field work, discussion, and cooking to help us understand why and how food has been gendered and how the process differs across place, time, and culture.

Students will be responsible for developing a group project together as well as working on individual investigations of gender and food.

Summer Course Spotlight: The Science of Food and Cooking

molecular gastronomy photoFood science meets culinary arts in the MLA in Gastronomy program’s Science of Food and Cooking course. In this Summer I course, basic food science is explored in the context of traditional and modern cooking techniques. Students will discover the science behind cooking everyday foods, explore molecular gastronomy, and learn how to use sensory evaluation techniques to analyze food products.

Students will conduct in-class experiments and have the opportunity to work in BU’s professional kitchen for a comprehensive look at the basic science that makes recipes work and how altering ingredients results in differing sensory properties. Join us for a combination of academic discussion and hands-on exploration of the science of food. This course is designed for food studies and other non-natural science majors and does not require prerequisites.

Instructor Valerie Ryan is a food scientist and food studies scholar. She holds a Master of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy and is certified in Culinary Arts; her Bachelor of Science is in Food and Nutrition, with a concentration in Food Chemistry. As a food scientist, she has worked for both government and industry in the areas of research and development; ingredient applications; chemical, nutritional, and sensory analysis; and product innovation. Ryan has focused her food studies research on the impact of taste preference on human evolution.

Limited seats are still available in this class, which will meet on Monday and Wednesday evenings, beginning May 18 and runs through June 25. Please register online at by May 10 or contact for more information

After Graduation: Starting a Wine Business

by Kim Simone

Alumna Kim Simone (May ’14) shares her post-degree career path and founding her company, Vinitas Wineworks.

kim1One of the questions I heard frequently from people while I was attending the Gastronomy program was “What are you going to do with your degree?” It’s not exactly a traditional program with built-in job training (with the exception of the culinary program.) We do it because it’s a part of who we are and what we love. I bet that most of us use the degree to forge our own way in the world of food, creating a place for ourselves in one of the many industries that pertain to our chosen field of study, be it cooking, writing, education, hospitality, and so on. I chose wine.

At the same time that I started the Gastronomy program I also jumped into the wine world, working first in a large retail store and then for a medium-sized Massachusetts wine distributor. And although I was climbing up the industry ladder, I got an idea pretty early on that a job in sales wasn’t the place for me. My real love has always been educating the public and “geeking out” over the finer points of whatever is in my wineglass. Which is why, after years of thought and planning, I founded an independent wine education and consulting company after finishing my degree last May.

Wine-is-fun-single-1080x675I specialize in wine education classes and hosting wine events for the general public. These can be either private events (e.g. tastings in people’s homes, private parties, etc.) or something bigger like a fundraiser for a nonprofit. I also provide training for those in the hospitality trades that either need some guidance within their own store or restaurant, or who need someone to train their staff to be better servers or wine consultants. My education through the Gastronomy program and the Elizabeth Bishop Wine School has really prepared me for this new role. Both the hands-on tasting classes led by Sandy Block and Bill Nesto, as well as the History of Wine class, really opened up this fabulous world to me. The most important thing I feel that I can pass on to my clients is that wine doesn’t have to be scary. It is complex, yes, but there truly is something out there for every palate. Once you learn what you like the possibilities are endless. Through my events and blog I provide the place to ask those questions that you might think are a little bit dumb and get that knowledge flowing.

Kim Simone can be reached at or

Cooking with Chef Jacques Pépin

by Claudia Catalano

Student Claudia Catalano recounts her experience cooking with Chef Jacques Pépin, one of the founders of the Gastronomy Program at BU and a celebrated chef in his own right.

Catalano & Pepin

It’s 7 pm on a Wednesday night. Eighty ticket-holding foodies sit attentively while gulping down sparkling rosé. I’m standing underneath a kitchen demonstration mirror, my hands trembling as I peel and core apples as fast as I can without losing a finger. The audience is captive, but not because of me. I could be flambéing a roast goose and they wouldn’t notice. Their eyes are fixed on the man by my side—the legendary Jacques Pépin.

I was proud and honored to be assisting the celebrated chef while he visited BU for three days. Pépin co-founded the Gastronomy program and at age 79, and he still comes to work with the culinary students each semester. The time spent with Jacques in the kitchen culminated in 2 evening events that were open to the public. For both nights, he demonstrated recipes from his 2007 book, Chez Jacques, while discussing his philosophy on food and his journey as an artist. Besides being a prolific author and beloved television personality, Jacques is also a painter.

Chicken Galantine

The menu was the same for both dinners and reflected simple traditions from his lifetime of cooking. We started with fromage forte—a savory cheese spread made from odds and ends of leftover cheese (camembert, stilton, chèvre, cheddar, anything!), garlic, white wine, and a generous pinch of black pepper. Packed into little crocks and served with freshly made croutons, it was a quintessential product of his humble upbringing and resourceful approach to cooking.

We also made duck liver pâté with shallots, duck fat, ground bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, and a few glugs of good cognac. The students hovered around an extra crock and slathered the rich earthy spread on the same crisp croutons.

pepin2While he demonstrated the dishes, cracked jokes, and told stories from his early years in New York, the students buzzed around behind the scenes to churn out scores of plated portions for every other course. With the help of Pépin’s longtime friend and equally accomplished chef, Jean-Claude Szurdak, we had been prepping and cooking for the event all day. After the fromage and pâté, we made truffle and pistachio sausage with warm leek and potato salad. Ground pork shoulder was seasoned with pickling salt, white wine and garlic, and then combined with chopped truffles and pistachios. Logs were rolled tightly in plastic wrap, then foil, and left to cure in the refrigerator for four days (these were made ahead). On the afternoon of service, we poached the sausages and cut thick slices to serve atop the potatoes.

pepin4For the main course we made chicken thighs with morel sauce and rice pilaf. The sauce was enhanced with the soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms, fruity white wine, the pan drippings, and cream. It was the perfect marriage of elegance and comfort food. To cap off the meal, we baked rustic apple tarts with hazelnut frangipane.

Amidst all the prepping and cooking for the big events, Jacques still found the time to teach us how to bone a whole chicken for galantine—a task I’ve seen him perform on videos and TV. He’s so approachable, it’s easy to forget how accomplished he really is. But when I watched him work I realized I was observing a man with a lifetime of embodied kitchen knowledge – knowledge that flows out of his fingers with ease and grace.

In addition to the perfected techniques and beautifully executed dishes, there’s so much more I took away from my three days with Jacques and Jean-Claude. So much that I had to boil it down to “Jacques’ credo”:

1) A chef is a craftsman before he is an artist. A young chef who is trying to be “creative” is like a writer who doesn’t have a good grasp of grammar—it just doesn’t work.

2) Good food should be simple.

3) Home is the best restaurant.

4) For experienced cooks, a recipe is an expression of one moment in time.

5) Food does more than fill a biological need. It can mean love, home, comfort…

6) The best food is the food you know (Jacques isn’t interested in what he called a “plated unborn vegetable”).

7) You can make a convincing “Champagne” by mixing white wine with Pabst Blue Ribbon (this one I got from Jean-Claude at the after-party!).

8) Great food is even better when shared with friends and the people you love. So if nerves get to you in the heat of the kitchen or you dropped your tart on the floor, just relax and have another glass of wine. As long as you keep good company, everyone will still have a good time.

Culinary Tourism in Tanzania

by Carlos C. Olaechea

Student Carlos C. Olaechea shares some gastronomic images of his spring break trip to Tanzania.

This spring break, I went on a tour of northern Tanzania along with fellow gastronomy student Keith Duhamel and Interim Faculty Coordinator Mary Beaudry as part of Dr. Samuel Mendlinger’s course on economic development via tourism in the developing world.  In addition to viewing the wildlife that makes this region of Africa a unique tourist destination, we also participated in lectures offered by local experts on tourism, conservation, and community development.

As a gastronomy student, I naturally focused my attention on the local food culture as we drove past coffee plantations, paddies, fields of maize, and herds of zebu cattle.  We were able to learn about agricultural practices and traditional foods and beverages, as well as sample the cuisines of the various native and immigrant groups that call Tanzania home.

The course, offered by Metropolitan College’s Administrative Sciences department and open to gastronomy students interested in tourism development, is offered each spring semester.  It is advisable to take one other tourism course in the department, such as Cultural Tourism (ML 692), prior to taking this course.  For more information about the course, as well as other tourism courses, please visit the Administrative Sciences website.

Local root vegetables are offered alongside traditional English breakfast items such as beans, grilled tomatoes, and sausages.
a meat stew and rice at a roadside cafe. The food is traditionally cooked on charcoal braziers, filling the space with a smokey aroma
preparing leafy greens at a roadside cafe
Hotels and lodges offer guests boxed lunches to take with them on safari. They typically feature a banana and packaged mango nectar produced in the capital, Dar Es Salaam.
Listening to a talk about banana cultivation on a cultural tour of Mto W Ambu, a town renowned for its bananas, plantains, and rice.
a patch of leafy greens in Mto W Ambu
A heard of zebu cattle – a breed known for its hardiness and ubiquitous in Tanzania – in Mto W Ambu. Cattle herding is one of the primary livelihoods of the Maasai people of the region
A dinner buffet at Rhino Lodge in Ngorongoro Conservation area feature continental and local fare, including ugali – a cornmeal porridge – and peas in a tomato and coconut milk sauce.
The national beer. Safari beer is also another type of lager available in Tanzania, as well as Tusker, a Kenyan variety. Tanzania also produces its own brand of gin called Konyagi, which is sweeter and has less juniper than the European and American varieties.
Women selling plantains on the side of the road.
skewers of beef, a traditional Maasai dish called Nyama Choma, is a popular street food throughout this region of Tanzania. Each skewer costs about 1,000 Tanzanian shillings, the equivalent of 50 cents.
Banana and sprouted red millet beer, the specialty of the Chaka people. Originally from the area surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro, many tribe members moved to the town of Mto W Ambu. The beverage provides a great deal of vitamins and probiotics, and after Protestant missionaries discouraged its consumption, the health of local populations declined significantly.
Enjoying the famous red bananas of Mto W Ambu.
sweet, non alcoholic malt beverages and plantain chips are a popular snack throughout the region, and both are available at the rest stops within Serengeti National Park.
A guava vendor in the town of Arusha, where we began our expedition.
The central market of Arusha
An artful display of fresh okra at the central market in Arusha.
A variety of legumes, a local staple, at the central market in Arusha.
Two important seasonings: dried anchovies (middle) and scotch bonnet chiles or “pili pili” (right). On the bottom left are chunks of clay that women consume, especially when they are pregnant.
Freshly ground Tanzanian coffee at the Arusha central market.
brightly colored and flavored baobab seeds are a popular children’s snack, who suck the acidic pulp and spit out the brown seeds. Apparently, it is inappropriate for adults to indulge in them…but that didn’t stop me.
The salad and chutney bar at Khan’s BBQ. By day, Mr. Khan, a Pakistani expat, runs a mechanic shop, and by night, grills brimming with kebabs line Mosque Street behind the central market in Arusha. Although the salads and chutneys have South Asian influences, they are uniquely Tanzanian.
Mutton and beef cooking on a charcoal grill at Khan’s BBQ
Red tinged tandoor chicken at Khan’s BBQ
Freshly made jilebis, a crispy snack soaked in sugar syrup, are the perfect sweet end to a meal at Khan’s BBQ
Local custard apple, passionfruit, and guava from the central market in Arusha supplemented the breakfast buffet on our last day in Tanzania.