Symposium/CfP - Food & Cookery, 6-8 July 2018, UK


January 19, 2018


Event Date:

July 06, 2018 - July 08, 2018

Opportunity Cover Image - Symposium/CfP - Food & Cookery, 6-8 July 2018, UK


Papers are invited on Seeds, the Among the many questions that might be asked is the role of mono-cultures in the loss of plant diversity.

Is it enough that we set up seed-banks to protect our disappearing botanical library, or should we be pro-active in the prevention of loss?

How much of the crop vanishes into non-food products such as fuel and plastics?

What price are we prepared to pay for the pleasure of a pint of beer, a cup of espresso, a slab of chocolate, a scoop of sesame-seeds, a subject of our 2018 Oxford Symposium on Food & Cookery at St Catherine’s College, Oxford on 6-8 July. Anyone interested in presenting a paper should submit a proposal of 500-1000 words by 19 January 2018 to Mark McWilliams at and include your contact information.

George Bernard Shaw asked us to think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn. For our 2018 Symposium we ask you to consider the seeds that have provided the world with most of its staple foods. We invite abstracts for papers covering any topic related to grains, nuts and pulses, all of which are of almond-milk? As heirloom seed-savers and conservationists fight to fill seed banks to preserve the world’s plant diversity for common use and to guard against catastrophe, is it sensible for us to permit (or indeed encourage) supra-national food companies to develop and patent seed-varieties that dictate reliance on the infrastructure of industrial agriculture? You may want to discuss seed sharing and seed monopolies. Seed ownership has become a question of social justice with reports of farmers in Tanzania facing jail if they seed-save after a harvest as was always the tradition in the past. And do we know how seeds change when they become an object of intellectual property rights and what happens when crops are genetically modified. You might consider seeds in a historical context. Their durability, portability and ability to remain dormant was (and is) crucial to the spread of the crops and to the way we grow them and made them a tradable property across continents and at home. Broad beans that have been found in pots in ancient Egyptian tombs have been grown in irrigated fields.

You may want to explore the rich symbolism of seeds, from the pomegranate seeds of Persephone in Greek myth to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 in The Bible, or the way they have been used to celebrate birth, marriage, death and resurrection, from the poppy-seeds of Greek funeral foods to the buried almond in Swedish Christmas porridge. You might want to look at the complex relationship between seeds and the lives of the plants that bear them, why some like the walnut are large and locked into a hard shell, others like amaranth and quinoa that are tiny and can be broadcast all but naked, still others like pepper and nutmeg so flavourful that we can't eat them straight. You might wish to research ancient plant varieties or modern hybrids, seeded grapes or seedless watermelons. Some papers may consider wild seeds while others may look at how the act of planting and husbanding a seed is at the heart of agriculture.

Most importantly, we invite you to consider the role of seeds in gastronomy, their use in various cuisines, from the sesame sweets of the Middle East to the lentil and chickpea dhals of India and the indigenous grains that supported the Andean nations and those who live in the uplands of Africa. We welcome papers on the textures, flavours and aromas of certain seeds, from the bitter almond flavour of an apricot pit to the aromatic rice of China; their use in products such as sesame paste (tehine) and tofu, and the seed oils that have become one of the most consumed sources of calories in the world. You may also wish to explore the nutritional and medicinal values of seeds and whether they have broadened or narrowed the diversity of our diets today. Whatever else seeds may be, they are always a kind of miracle and we look forward to exploring this rich subject with you in 2018.

For more information please click "Further Official Information" below.

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Publish Date
October 25, 2017
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