Place and Time in Food Memory: Reliving the AFHVS / ASFS 2018 Panel

I’m still basking in the glow of chairing and presenting on my first panel at an academic conference – the joint annual meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society.  The panel topic was Place and Time in Food Memory: Migration and Nostalgia, and I presented on my long term Nostalgia Dinner Series.  (I’ve even shared the text of my paper presentation if you missed it!)

After nervously putting out a call for papers on the topic of food memory, I was amazed by the positive response of people eager to collaborate on this panel.  Our group was interdisciplinary and included scholars from four states, ranging in experience from a first-year Master’s student (that’s me!) to a full professor.


I was impressed at the synergies of our presentations: though each panelist drew from different sources and disciplinary methods, we were all wrestling with the effects of food memory. After I shared how I use my Nostalgia Dinner Series to investigate how nostalgia can be productive or constructive, my fellow BU Gastronaut Esther Martin-Ullrich, aka The Foodlorist, presented her experience of destructive nostalgia. She shared anecdotes from her time working in living history museums, where visitors imagined the ‘simple,’ easy life of people in the past, romanticizing a time when humans were enslaved and life was hard even for the privileged.

Mark Kehren of Loras College then shared his research on the cookbooks of Portuguese retornados, white colonists returned to Portugal from African colonies, exploring the complicated nostalgia for colonizers now back in their ‘home’ country.  And Caroline Erb-Medina of CUNY rounded out our panel with findings from her sociology dissertation on men’s interpersonal memories of consuming sweets.  For her interviewees, memories of mothers and (female) romantic partners were strong influencers for sweets consumption.

Many thanks to fellow BU Gastronomy alumna KC Hysmith for live tweeting the panel – you can explore her takeaways in the thread below!


Photos by KC Hysmith

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