Aiken Lectures Serve Knowledge, Food

We are what we eat. If one considers the digestion process, this adage is oddly factual. I am a freedom fry. Food is, in fact, one of a human’s few needs, in the strictest sense of the word. In a growing world of GMO’s and with more chemistry going into the food production process than culinary expertise, the subject of this year’s George D, Aiken lectures was all too appropriate. This past Saturday in the Patrick Gymnasium a chorus line of speakers, panels, demonstrations, and food preparations were put on display for the general public to learn from and participate in. Exhibitions and speeches ranged from Marion Nestle’s “The Ironic Politics of Obesity” to a demonstration of “How to prepare and serve a whole bird” put on by Robert Barral, Executive chef of the New England Culinary Institute. There was a strong emphasis on having an awareness of food origins and means of production; the message being we ought to know who we are. For instance, the second panel discussed the history of the potato in America from the effects of the narrowing of genetic diversity to the effects recent aggressive marketing techniques have had on a hungry population. Finishing the all-day event was a cheese tasting reception also held in Patrick Gym. Chefs Roger Kayser and Tom Oliver had on display a half-dozen cheeses produced locally in Vermont. Roger Kayser is the district executive chef for Sodexho’s New England division. He oversees the menus of nearly all the colleges in the area including St, Michael’s and Champlain College. He is from Luxembourg and knows his cheese; he had only good things to say about the cheeses he put out saying, “Vermont cheese has come a long way” and, “they are excellent now”. Interestingly Cabot, though “Vermont’s pride” for its cheddar, is not the only producer of quality cheese in the green mountain state. In fact, there are a surprising number of gourmet cheeses being aged in the area including some delicious blue, brie and gouda (smoked or otherwise). After extensive testing the blue was found to be especially good. Tom Oliver is a University Executive Chef and manages the University Marche. Apparently the Marche is the only Sodexho facility that does not go exclusively by Sodexho recipes. The chefs at the Marche take a recipe and “modify it, do something a little different, just change it” to make it more appealing to the students. Tom Oliver was especially proud of the Marche’s ability to cater to the students to a greater degree than most facilities. “Students often request a potato salad or a dish they’re fond of and we’re happy to go in the back and whip something up for them. They’re always surprised to find a dish they requested out the next day.” The University had on display a long list of local producers that they garner produce, dairy, and other foodstuffs from. Acting locally is thinking globally. At 4:30, with the cheese tasting to begin Daniel Fogel commenting on the day’s proceedings was seen ambling out into a Fall afternoon into his forest green Toyota Highlander. At least the color’s right.