Around the Table: food, creativity, community inspired Society for Art and Cultural Heritage of India to plan a dynamic event at the San Jose Museum of Art, a celebration of food and cuisine combined with outstanding scholarship and a thought-provoking exhibition,” says Kalpana Desai, President of SACHI. “We are thrilled to present Harold McGee and Rachel Laudan to share groundbreaking perspectives on the culture and science of cooking. Epilogue, a piece by contemporary Indian artist Jitish Kallat, will be an inspiring backdrop for our April 11th program The World on Our Plates,” explains Desai.
After refreshments and a guided tour of the exhibit Rachel Laudan, author of Cuisine and Empire, will provide an illustrated talk about 2,000 years of food history. “South Asia was the cradle not only of several of the world’s major religions but of the world’s major cuisines as well,” explains Laudan. Food was a crucial component for both South Asian culture and religion. “Monasteries spread ways of processing and cooking new dishes and foods such as cane sugar, using sugar refining as a metaphor for spiritual progress.” Laudan is particularly interested in the ways cuisine is linked to conversion, “Monks, often with the agreement of the state, spread not only their religion but the accompanying cuisine as well as the trade and farming to support it.”
Laudan is joined by Harold McGee, author of the now classic On Food and Cooking. A regular columnist for the New York Times, McGee has written extensively about the science of cooking. “Science is all about exploring our world, looking below surface appearances to understand how things work, and then using that understanding to make and do things differently.” He believes cooks were the first scientists, “They observed how heat energy could transform natural materials, and developed their craft according.” McGee will illuminate the kitchen science of popular restaurant chefs and talk about the second edition of On Food and Cooking, “I essentially rewrote it from beginning to end and expanded it significantly, because readers had become both more interested and more knowledgeable.”
“Religious leaders told understandable stories about food, whether of the Buddha partaking of sweet grain dishes after his enlightenment or of Vishnu ordering the churning of the primordial ocean of milk,” says Laudan. Food was central to the teaching and spread of religion in South Asia, and retains its centrality in our own kitchens today. Join Rachel Laudan and Harold McGee for an evening of art, cooking, and science that explores and reaffirms the place of food in our families and communities.
Friday, April 11, 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. San Jose Museum of Art, 110 S. Market Street, San Jose. Members $20, non-memebers $25. (650) 918-6335. [email protected]