Saturday, May 29, 2021

Virtual talks... a year ago

When I started gathering together a list of virtual talks, classes, readings last April, I never thought I would still be at it, and how much time it would take. This post will be on some of the Zooming pioneers who got us through the first few months with talks, tours, and cook/or bake-alongs.

My purpose for starting the Calendar - 'my Covid service project' - was to help the closed museums get more viewers and hopefully donations. Initially all the talks were free, then I started adding tour guides groups, small buisinesses and individuals. Also I wanted to put up anything even remotely related to food history to provide talks, tours, cook-alongs to keep food historians, hearth cooks, museum folk busy and learn something new to ease lockdown. Tapes are at most of the links throughout this post.

George Washington's Mount Vernon was one of the earliest (in March!) museums to do virtual tours, of their kitchen, dining room, even the cellar, (visit and go on their National Treasure movie tour), gristmill, distillery, the other rooms, outbuildings and many speakers all here. Very detailed and brought back pleasant memories of visits with family or friends... a relief during the isolation.

There have been several online symposiums. The first was the 5th Dublin Gastronomy Symposium, which I thought was the most memorable. Over 750 attendees from 31 countries maneuvered the new virtual experience. The panels of 50 speakers, peer reviewed papers, short videos showcasing Ireland (to substitute for not being there in person) such as baking in a hundred year old brick oven, singing, and much more... were all free and still available online: Panels and Papers to download. And amazingly, the topic chosen two years before (Symposium is biennial) was… "Food and Disruption." The Great Big Jewish Food Fest had more than thirty talks and demonstrations over two weeks. Remarkably, it was put together quickly by a small group of individuals who reached out to about 50 organizations and raised more than $150,000.

Individuals started giving talks on their own. Dr. Clarissa Dillon’s 'One Cool Colonial' HERE is a delightfully informative colaboration with Pam Sedar, her neighbor, who had the brilliant idea to record Dr. Dillon working in the period correct garden of a 1798 Quaker home near Philadelphia; and during the winter, cook at its hearth. William Rubel started his Bread History Seminars followed by a bake-a-long on April 13, initially weekly on Thursdays at noon, now twice a month. At times, members of his Facebook group would present talks on their specialities.

A few culinary historian groups began going virtual very soon after the shutdown, with a tad bit of a learning curve about Zoom - setting camera view, speaker mic, and audience etiquette: "you're on mute!" or "everyone turn off your mics." The first talk was by HFSDV Historic Foodways Society of the Delaware Valley, launched on April 2. Three days later Culinary Historians of Chicago, then Culinary Historians of Northern California (no longer active), then in May Culinary Historians of Canada (no tapes) and CHEW of Wisconsin. Fall 2020 and later: CHoW Washington DC, CH Ann Arbor, CH of Southern California, CH San Diego, Chicago Foodways Roundtable and Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance, CH New York (a few tapes) and CH Boston (did a couple, no tapes).

The first pairing of a museum with local businesses that I noticed was in May by the Princeton University Art Museum for their exhibit An Art Historical Tasting: Food and Drink in Italian Renaissance and Baroque Art. The museum arranged it so locals could watch while enjoying a specially designed menu from a downtown Princeton restaurant Mezzaluna for pickup and wine pairings from next door Public Wine, Beer and Spirits. I wrote at the time... "What a great idea!"

Many activities warranted a separate blog post, including the amazing Sourdough Library; Oral history project on foodways during quarantine in August; Transcribing manuscript recipes – volunteer!; free JSTOR to research at home; and Cooking historically on Youtube.

And many talks on the foodways of Indigenous peoples; African American; Jewish; Irish; British; Italian and more.

Groups of scholars came together to give virtual talks. IHR started its 100th year by going virtual with talks in 60 history seminars, one series Food History Seminar videos HERE. PhD Research Students from the University of Essex Department of History hold History Indoors on Wednesdays.

Garden clubs had some fantastic talks… although most were not taped - Glasshouses; Louis XIV, King of Gardens; Kitchen Gardens; walled gardens. A good talk on Victory Gardens by Anastasia Day in NJ, was with the Austin Organic Gardeners in Texas.

Don’t forget the kids! They also had cook/bake alongs. Gunston Hall, VA did a series of programs starting with Tenant Farmers - a ppt, game/worksheet based on Mason's contract with tenant farmers listing what they had to have/do and easy recipes. New-York Historical’s Living History DiMenna Children’s History Museum had cooking over fire, nicely done by Cheyney McKnight, Jumbles.

Regional festivals went virtual. Catoctin Furnace's Maryland Iron Festival did a great job. This year had videos of many historic furnaces in Md and Pa, hearth cooking by Henry Ward, Hampton and Rose Hill manors, archeology and geology to explain why bones of one worker had a huge amount of zinc, and a delightful little girl singing & playing fiddle with Dad on banjo (The Caswells). Last year showcased videos by each craftsperson, videos of various areas in Catoctin and Hopewell Furnance, some early films of making iron and The Caswells.

Tour guides took to the internet instead of the streets. Footprints of London; New York Adventure Club; and San Francisco City Guides. The one which has expanded greatly is Context Travel where each talk is $36.50.

There will be virtual talks in the future. Many groups, symposiums and museums have stated plans to continue offerings... perhaps as a hybrid of in-person and virtual, or an occasional virtual meeting - for members unable to attend and to keep their international attendees.

First photo shows my only bake-along... making 1826 English Muffins (Hannah Glasse, changes by Richard Briggs) post HERE with William Rubel's Facebook group (on iPhone).

Calendar of virtual food history talks HERE

And finally, as I have included in every month's list of the Calendar: ***Please donate to the non-profits and support small businesses.***

©2021 Patricia Bixler Reber
Researching Food History HOME

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