Vassar Quarterly - Spring/Summer 2017 - 14
FOOD, GLORIOUS ...
his April, during Vassar's first-ever food symposium,
"Building Food: Food, Space, and Architecture," one
presenter explained that the French consider doggie bags
tantamount to barbarism. Another-a chef-explored the
greatest revenge he could muster against invasive species of fish-
to serve them as sushi. And an entrepreneur explained why he is
investing time and money in a company that aims to promote a
promising source of protein: the cricket.
The symposium was organized by Associate Professor of French
and Francophone Studies Thomas Parker over the last two years,
and supported by the French and Francophone Studies Department,
Vassar's Creative Arts Across Disciplines, and other campus offices.
Parker's aim was to present many approaches to cuisine by way of
panels, lectures, and tastings, and to inspire attendees "to think about
food in new ways, to develop new interests and see where existing
One of the high points of the symposium was the associated
luncheon. Students, foodies, and scholars alike crowded into the
Alumnae House dining room, awaiting the arrival of celebrity sushi
chef and James Beard Award nominee Bun Lai. His reputation
preceded him-described by Outside Magazine as having "a voice like
Captain America," Lai possesses charisma and unconventional
culinary practices that have propelled him to the forefront of the
sustainable food movement. Miya's-his New Haven, CT, restaurant-
is renowned for its exquisite platters of sushi, cleverly laced with the
most detested villains of the sea-invasive species of fish.
As Lai spoke of his work, guests were served an array of colorful
sushi rolls, layered with sweet potato, soba, and the occasional spiny
sea creature. As the crowd tentatively, then enthusiastically devoured
Lai's untraditional take on sushi, the chef spoke of food as an
extension of the divine-something that transcends the constrained,
physical form. "Food isn't just fuel," he remarked. "It's something
spiritual. Food is our way to care for one another, and to have that
ability is the most important thing there is."
While Lai's methods are certainly unorthodox, he is not alone
in thinking that our best hope for solving global crises might lie
in reframing the way we think about food. Another presenter at
Alumnae House that day, Kevin Bachhuber, disillusioned by the
instability of the financial market after the 2008 collapse, left his
nine-to-five job in pursuit of a more radical career: insect farming.
As the founder of Big Cricket, America's first edible-insect farm,
Bachhuber is firmly convinced that insects are the next frontier of
food, but he acknowledges that the U.S. and Western countries lag
behind the rest of the world, which has been more receptive to the