Last November I had the honor of being invited to join the board of Trustees of the Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery, a now annual gathering at the University of Oxford instigated in the late 1970s by Alan Davidson and Theodore Zeldin, and taking place for the 33rd time this July 3–5. If you don't know the Symposium, here's the concise introduction from its homepage:
The Oxford Symposium is the original international conference for people with a broad interest in food, attended by scholars in different fields, enthusiastic amateurs, writers and chefs. Contributions are invited but not obligatory. The three-day meeting is a convivial event with ideas and information exchanged over great food.
There was absolutely nothing like the Symposium in its early years, when cooking had yet to become a respectable subject for scholarship of any kind. And even now that food has hit the cultural mainstream, the Symposium remains unique in its regularity and diverse mix of people, approaches, and subjects. To get a taste, watch a couple of videos of past presentations, or browse the many volumes of past Proceedings that are now freely available online here. Only the "great food" is a relatively recent development! For many years the participants were on their own for meals apart from one communal potluck, which was always interesting but, understandably given the logistical challenges, not always delicious. These days most meals are shared, and such visiting chefs as Fergus Henderson, Shaun Hill, Rowley Leigh, and Jeremy Lee participate in planning and preparing them.
I attended my first Oxford Symposium in 1985, met lifelong friends and colleagues there, and have been a fan ever since. I'm very happy to be able to work with the other Trustees to keep it going strong, and make sure that food lovers everywhere know about it and the resources it shares.
And to begin: if you are or know a young culinary professional of limited means who would like to attend this July's Symposium on "Food and Communication," you should know there's a grant that could help make it possible. There are also grants for students. Please spread the word!