Last night we enjoyed an amazing event that brought together our love of wine, winemakers and wineries with the culture of food. Cooking culture is a concept that is close to our hearts as lovers of food and wine. We love food almost as much as we love wine and often talk about how food enhances both wine and life. We got to share the evening with some of our favorite winery owners, Neil and Sue Shay from Bluebird Hill Cellars, and Jim McGavin and Wendy Golish, owners of Walnut Ridge Vineyards. Jim and Wendy helped sponsor this event by providing amazing wine throughout the meal. Bobby Moy, Bluebird Hill’s winemaker, also joined our group for the evening.
The event was “Cooking Culture, a Celebration of Food and Community,” presented by the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History. It was held at the beautiful Ford Alumni Center on the Eugene campus of the university. About 200 people gathered for a lovely dinner and a lecture by Dr. Stephen Wooten, a sociocultural anthropologist and associate professor at the university. Dr. Wooten’s passion for the culture of food and cooking was evident throughout his presentation.
Dr. Wooten started with a global look at what cooking and cooking culture were historically. Cooking is “to prepare food for eating by applying heat.” Historically that might have meant utilizing naturally occurring fire like that started by lightening, but in today’s world it can also mean the heat from the microwave oven. The first cooking culture was made up of hunters and gatherers, followed by the rise of agriculture. Women were always the cooks, or as Dr. Wooten described them, “cultural creatives.” Women were both the cooks and the potters, making the vessels in which the food was prepared.
The most fascinating portion of Dr. Wooten’s presentation was about the impact of food and cooking on culture, and particularly on today’s culture. With the evolution of fast food, convenience food and the microwave, there is a significant decline in sharing meals. So much happens when we share meals. Some of my fondest memories are around food – the smells, the sounds, the tastes of my mother’s cooking when I was a child. The celebration of holidays that were culturally bound to particular foods continues in my family’s life and now in the life of my adult child’s family. Without that, we have little to share. These new foods are referred to as “cultureless cuisine.” Can you imagine an Italian family reflecting back on the best can of Chef Boyardee they ever shared?
Dr. Wooten’s final message was about Hummus Diplomacy, first started in an Israeli cafe where discounts were offered to Jews and Arabs who were willing to sit together and share a meal. On a larger scale, isn’t that something we can all do to bring people together? It is difficult to argue when experiencing an exquisite glass of wine with others or sharing a meal prepared with caring and love.
Our love of wine, wineries and all things wine related has more to do with the people, places and culture of wine than it does with the grape. Our evening at the Ford Alumni Center with some of our favorite wine folks further confirmed the importance of coming together over a glass of wine and a great meal.