Anthropology on the hoof

Why we procure, prepare and serve the food we do has cultural, sociological, geographical, financial and political ramifications. The Greater Midwest Foodways Alliance (GMFA) has a mission -- to study what Midwesterners eat and why, to preserve our past and present for the future through research, documentation and oral histories. Foodways, incidentally, is defined as the eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period, or the study of what people eat and why. It is culinary anthropology on the hoof, paw, root and leaf. Building off the success of its inaugural event last fall, (GMFA) invites media, academics, members of the food processing and foodservice industry, students and food aficionados in general to its Spring Symposium “Sweets: A Journey Through Midwestern Dessert Traditions,” on Saturday, April 5, 2008 at Kendall College in Chicago from 9:00 to 4:00, a full-day of lectures, discussions and delicious food tastings. Sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Chicago, Kendall College and the Almond Board of California, the symposium’s speakers are a “who’s-who” of experts, who will discuss the history of sweets and dessert traditions in the Midwest. Featured speakers include: Chicago Tribune food writers Robyn Mather Jenkins and Donna Pierce, Jane Marshall, food historian, Kansas State University, Ken Albala, professor of history at the University of the Pacific and an authority on almond cookery, and Eleanor Hanson, former Kraft Kitchen director.  Attendees will find out about the influential role of the railroad and immigrant populations in bringing new desserts to the Midwest and establishing them as traditions, Abraham Lincoln’s favorite dessert, blue-ribbon pie traditions of county fairs, including unusual, lost recipes such as bean pie and sugar-cream pie, the cooking of late 19th-century Michigan, as described in the autobiography of Della Lutes, the role of Midwestern food companies in creating much-loved home dessert recipes such as the French Silk Pie, Tunnel of Love cake and Princess Brownies, humble Midwest origins of many internationally known candies, candy bars and other treats, such as the Heath Bar, and dessert traditions completely unique to the Midwest, including the Wisconsin Kringle and the Mennonite-German Pfeffernusse.   See you there, foodies. Details: “Sweets: A Journey Through Midwestern Dessert Traditions” Saturday, April 5, 2008, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Kendall College, 900 North Branch (just north of Chicago Ave. and west of Halsted), Chicago Free parking available. Lectures, interactive discussions -- $50 in advance, or $60 at the door, lunch included  To register, call (847) 432-8255, visit or by credit card: