May 11, 2012


Ruth Reichl and Faith Middleton at FOODSTOCK

Over the weekend, I got the pleasure of meeting Dorie Greenspan, the renown baker and cookbook author, at FOODSTOCK, Wesleyan's first food and writing conference dedicated to "cooks and books" held on Saturday, May 5. As we were chatting about the conference, she recounted a story which really stuck with me.

"One night I was having dinner with Julia Child at a restaurant," she began. 

I stopped her right there. "Few people can say that sentence," I interrupted. 

"That's so true," she responded, smiling. "Anyways, after dinner we went back into the kitchen to meet the cooks - Julia was commenting on this and that. Suddenly, Julia went up to one of the cooks and started intensely questioning if they had finished school. I realized she wanted to make sure that people in the food world were well educated and were thinking about what they were doing. Julia really studied food and valued smart people in the food world - she found it very important." 

Which is to say, thinking about food is important. And I believe that's what FOODSTOCK was really about.

Dorie Greenspan with FOODSTOCK Volunteer Su Park

The one day event, free and open to the public, brought together 400 attendees, 60 volunteers, 35 speakers, 12 food trucks, 6 local vendors and a farmers market. It was one of the most eye-opening and exciting experiences I have ever had. 

I will gladly say, without any reservations, that it was a huge success. The speakers - who ranged from food-world luminaries like Ruth Reichl, Eric Asimov, Dorie Greenspan, Jane Stern and Molly O'Neill to Wesleyan students, local food bloggers and chefs - brought with them an enthusiasm for food and food writing which I will not soon forget. The attendees, who came from all over and were of every imaginable background, came hungry for a new perspective on the food world -- and for some good food. We had food trucks and local food vendors serving everything from wood-fired pizza and grilled cheese to cupcakes and specialty nuts and granola. It was probably the best food Wesleyan has ever seen. 

A wood-fired pizza oven on wheels. Now that's food moving forward. 

Throughout the day I got exposed to ideas that I will not soon forget. The topics of the talks and panels were wide-ranging, from From Lokshen to Lo Mein: The Jewish Love Affair with Chinese Food to Food as a Topic of Academic Pursuit, The Business of Food, Sustainable Cuisine, Cooking with Kids with Chef Bobo, and The Future of Kimchi.

Just a few of the highlights include: 
  • Ruth Reichl telling us about the one dish her mother did in fact make well: corn. And her belief  that eating a good egg on toast is more satisfying than any four-star NYC restaurant. Also, Reichl commenting that the next big thing in the food world would be food politics and food justice. Sounds good to me. 
  • John Finn, Wesleyan professor of constitutional law who also teaches on and writes about food, discussing the ways in which certain recipes are fascist! 
  • Jane Stern, author behind the Roadfood guides, commenting on how to find (or avoid) local restaurants: "If it smells bad, leave. It's a pretty reliable marker." 
  • Hearing Cara Eisenpress, Pippa Lord and Tressa Eaton talk on blogging about food for a young audience - and telling people who want to start a blog: just do it! I couldn't agree more.
  • Sampling some of Miya's Sushi, generously provided by Bun Lai and his team in New Haven. 
  • Getting to meet the very enthusiastic and well-informed attendees at FOODSTOCK!

Molly O'Neill at her talk "Writing So They Can Taste It" 
FOODSTOCK 2012 (yes, we're hoping to have it in future years!) really brought together some of the food world's most informed and creative minds, and I'm thrilled to have been a part of it. Many thanks to the team I worked with - Jennifer, Barbara, Khanh-Anh and Amy - as well as our fantastic volunteers! I will certainly miss working with everyone. 

Team FOODSTOCK (left to right): Barbara Fenig, me, Khanh-Ahn Le, Jennifer Ferri, Amy Bloom.
But if FOODSTOCK proved anything, it's that the work isn't over. It proved that we need lots of smart people thinking about, writing about and cooking good food. Apparently, Julia Child was thinking that same thing years ago. And luckily, many of us are still thinking that today. 

Video and audio podcasts of FOODSTOCK talks and panels will be available soon via their website

More photos from the day below!

Our wonderful FOODSTOCK volunteers at registration.

FOODSTOCK T-Shirt anyone? All proceeds went to a local food pantry (along with our raffle!).

Middletown's NORA Cupcakes!

Munchies food truck. Everyone had a good time at the food truck lunch!

Paolo Villoresi, Italian food expert, at his talk "Nostra Cucina Italiana: God Save the Cuisine" 

The one and only Jane Stern.
The conference included a pop-up bookstore from RJ Julia Booksellers. 
Eric Asimov, wine critic for the New York Times, with Faith Middleton of NPR.

Molly O'Neill's talk.

"The Jewish Love Affair with Chinese Food" with Amy Bloom, Gaye Tuchman and Chichi Wang

"Writing About Food for a Young Audience" with Tressa Eaton, Pippa Lord and Cara Eisenpress

Sushi from Miya's!
One of the vendors included this fabulous kitchen supply store! 
"Food as a Topic of Academic Pursuit" with Chi-Hoon Kim, Alex Ketchum, myself and John Finn (not pictured).
Photo credits: Nam Anh Ta, Dat Vu, Tom Lee and Will Levitt.