Abstracts for the conference "Tracing, shaping and reshaping culinary heritage" 5.-6. September 2022.

Session 1 The History of foodstuffs

  • Food cultures in post-medieval Ireland: new findings from the FoodCult project

    Meriel McClatchie, Susan Flavin, Ellen OCarroll, Charlie Taverner and Fiona Beglane


    The ERC-funded FoodCult project (foodcult.eu) is an interdisciplinary research project that is seeking to understand the social, cultural and economic meanings of food in Ireland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This was a period of increasingly globalised trade when new foods and objects arrived in Ireland from the European, Asian and American continents. This was also a period of colonisation and war, and the complexity of Irish society makes it an interesting case study. Over the past two decades, hundreds of archaeological excavations in Ireland have unearthed food-related materials dating to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including archaeobotanical remains, zooarchaeological remains and artefacts, such as cooking and eating utensils.

    This project is collating data from these artefacts and ecofacts and integrating this dataset with evidence from historical sources and new scientific analyses, thereby enabling a ground-breaking new approach to understand food cultures in a complex society. This presentation will focus on results from quantitative analyses of the newly collated archaeology dataset to provide new insights into food consumption practices across diverse social, occupational, ethnic and geographical contexts.

  • Culinary heritage by the Kukkola rapids. Local food culture from past to future

    Jenny Högström Berntson, jenny.hogstrom@gu.se

    Fishing and food practices in the small village Kukkola in Norrbotten County, Sweden, has a long history. The culinary setting and the famous whitefish are at the center of the melting pot that Kukkola constitutes: a place where cultures, culinary heritage and traditions come together.

    The whitefish and bag nets used to catch the fish is part of the tangible elements of the culinary heritage. The taste and smells of newly grilled fish and the transmission of recipes mediated over generations encompass the intangible parts of the same. Together, these components constitute an example of how a local society for several hundreds of years have applied, transformed and transmitted old traditions of fishing, cooking and eating from resources provided by the storming waters of the Kukkola rapids. For catching whitefish, the villagers use a special kind of fishing method dating back to the 16th century. The cooking traditions are both old and under rejuvenation as restaurants are trying to adapt to new demands and resources and attract the culinary tourist. This presentation draws attention to the intersection of food in culture, history, traditions, and local identity connected to the Kukkola whitefish.

  • Pre-industrial Aquaculture and the taste of Fish

    Margrete Figenschou Simonsen, m.f.simonsen@khm.uio.no

    In this paper I will focus on the shaping of food identity and the preference on fish in the diet in Medieval period and the centuries after, before the modern fish industry came along. In Norway and Scandinavia there are several fishponds and traces of such ponds from the Medieval times and later. I will show the emergence of fishpond breeding and the importance of fish in the diet, as a result of church rule and the spreading of monasteries in Europe.

    How did the local communities in Scandinavia respond to this? What types of fish were preferred and bred? What was the relation to sea water fish? What happened after the Reformation? I will look at both the local, regional and international prerequisites. The sources will be described according to actual traces and surviving fishponds, archaeological material of fish bones and written evidence on fish resources. I will also discuss the question: did the preference for fish effect upon the environment and the resources.

  • Halibut fishing in the Viking period

    Christian L. Rødsrud, c.l.rodsrud@khm.uio.no

    The excavation of the Gjellestad ship has been in the spotlight of both the media and among Viking researchers since its discovery in 2018. Despite the fact that the grave was both looted, overplowed and thoroughly drained, it has provided a number of important information about Viking culture. Food and objects related to food acquisition are well known from the Oseberg grave. Similar artefacts have probably been part of the Gjellestad funeral, but so far very few artefacts have been identified.

    Nevertheless, one of the fragmented artefacts from the burial chamber opens up the possibility of studying the food culture of the Viking Age from a whole new perspective. Poor conservation conditions have left only a few bones from animals, most of them from cattle and horses that were probably sacrificed as part of the ceremony, but at the very bottom of the burial chamber a bone from a halibut was found. The placement within the burial chamber implies it was a food offering to accompany the deceased. It should not be understood as the catch of the day but probably represents a cured or dried product. The products rav and rekling are dried halibut product known from medieval texts. Stockfish products of cod have so far characterized the research on fish trade between northern and southern parts of Scandinavia in Viking times, so the halibut find opens up a new debate.

  • The use and production of salt in Norway c. 1200-1600 with focus on the preservation of fish

    Per Norseng, Per.Norseng@marmuseum.no

    This paper will address domestic production and use of salt in Norway from the 13th century to ca. 1600. It will draw om sources from different parts of the country, but will focus especially on the Oslo fjord region. In this epoch, salt mostly served the following purposes in Norway: It was being fed to cattle and used for preservation and preparation of animal hides. For human consumption it may first have been used for table salt, as an additive to food, but from the 13th century onwards to a growing extent also for preservation of fish and other edibles.

    It has been a widespread belief among Norwegian historians and archaeologists that the latter use – for preserving foods – was very restricted until the end of the 16th century, when imported salt from Southern Europe gradually became more easily available at more affordable prices. Allegedly the quality of the domestically produced salt was to poor for extensive use for this purpose. The paper will in particular discuss this issue. Apparently the domestic production of salt was considerable in the 14th century and growing rapidly in the 15th and 16th centuries. With this as a point of departure, and by drawing on 16th  century  account books and inventories for the royal castle in Oslo and elsewhere, as well as on contemporary topographic literature, it will be argued that salt – imported as well as and domestic – was extensively used for preserving fish in coastal areas, to some degree also in inland areas as well.

    No later than the 16th century salt had become not only an alternative to drying fish; salting and drying was also combined to produce what in the subsequent centuries was to be known as “klippfisk”. This may have had important implications for the interpretation of food remains in archaeological finds, for example bones of big cod fish in excavations in medieval Oslo that have earlier been seen as proof of long distance trade with dried cod from Northern Norway, as well as residues of fish found by scientific analyses of kitchen utensils from recent excavations. 

  • The Daily Grind - Food Production and Consumption at a Medieval Farm in Lindesnes, Agder

    Silje Hårstad, Lucia Uchermann Koxvold, silje.harstad@khm.uio.no

    In the course of early summer 2021, the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, excavated the abandoned medieval farm Bjerland in the municipality of Lindesnes, Agder County. The excavation revealed remnants of a longhouse, old fields, and other structures tied to agricultural landscape use, dating from the Viking Age to the High Medieval period (700–1300 AD).

    The prevalent view on the settlement history of the Agder region is that most of the farms deserted throughout the earlier medieval periods were re-established in the later part. This has not been the case with Bjerland, thus leaving us with a unique opportunity to study a relatively undisturbed context with the potential of providing new knowledge of life, subsistence and tradition in the coastal moors of Agder during the Viking Age and Medieval period.

    During the excavation in 2021, we retrieved several different types of grain, seeds from other possible food plants, fragments of burnt bone from different animals, and artefacts tied to food preparation and production.

    This presentation aims to discuss the finds from Bjerland in light of the knowledge we have concerning local food traditions in the medieval period, with a special focus on the countryside, which is an underrepresented field in Norwegian Archaeology.

Session 2 History of meals and material culture

  • Collective food storage – lessons from the mid-20th century

    Mathilda Marshall, Matilda.Marshall@oru.se 

    Lately, scholars have called for encouraging collective cooling practices, e.g. for air-conditioning and food storage, as means for reducing environmental impact (Phillips and Waitt 2018; Farbotko and Waitt 2011). This connects to public and political calls for and initiatives for collective, shared, and circular practices and economies. These solutions are by far new, by contrast they were a necessity for several rural communities.

    This paper will look at collective freezer lockers, emerging in Sweden and other Nordic countries in the mid 1900s (see also Finstad 2022). These facilities were operated in different ways and had their heydays in the 1950s when marketed as an affordable alternative to the home freezer. It was part of a culinary infrastructure (Pilcher 2016) changing how people understood and consumed food. Departing from a bricolage approach to Swedish freezer locker facilities, this paper will explore the everyday practices connected to the collective freezer lockers. How were collective freezer practices organized and why did they seize to be meaningful in everyday life? How could past collective practices contribute with perspectives on present or future (sustainable) cooling practices?

  • Food and identity in times of transition. Changing culinary practices in Iron and early Viking Period Norway

    Grethe Bjørkan Bukkemoen, g.b.bukkemoen@khm.uio.no

    The paper addresses socio-political change in Iron and early Viking Period Norway (c. 350-900) through the lenses of food and culinary practices. The period around the mid-6th century AD is often termed a transitional period in Scandinavia based on the many substantial shifts visible in the archaeological record. Numerous settlements are abandoned, funerary rituals are transformed, new types of dress accessories and weapons appeared, and considerable reorientation in the utilisation and exploitation of outfield resources occurred.

    Significantly, a long-term tradition of producing high-quality ceramic table-ware are replaced by cooking utensils in iron and soapstone. Concurrent changes in communal meals, from outdoor public gatherings to indoor commensal events, point towards a considerable change in the meal as a resource for leadership and identity. In this paper, I draw attention to food traditions as active and malleable, and that a temporal perspective on food offers significant insight to continuity and change in past societies. Furthermore, I argue that craft communities, through their production of cooking equipment, contributed to shape social structure.

  • Remains of the Whey — Food and Society in a Medieval Western Norwegian Town Through the Lens of Pottery and Soapstone

    Mathias Blobel, University Museum of Bergen, Mathias.Blobel@uib.no

    While taste, scent and texture are the aspects of food that come most immediately to mind, these qualities are the most difficult to reconstruct from the archaeological record. The materiality of food culture does not only encompass foodstuffs, but also the vessels and implements used to prepare and consume it. These more durable castoffs of past foodways present an avenue of investigation for archaeology.

    Drawing on legacy data, and the objects found in the excavations in Borgund in Møre og Romsdal, one of the most completely excavated medieval towns in Norway, this paper presents an investigation into foodways through the exploitation of the interpretive potential of two categories of finds, pottery and soapstone vessels. It will show how, far from only providing dating evidence, ceramics and related materials contribute information about society obtained through the analysis of context, typology, use wear and food residues.

  • "Take away-dinners" – changes in Christiania's eating habits from the late 18th to the early 19th century

    Ragnhild Hutchison, ragnhild.hutchison@gmail.com 

    In 1834 Miss Elisabeth Truchs moved to Christiania, Norway. During the next 20 years she built a small business selling take away dinners, assorted food, teaching cooking classes and publishing Norway's second printed cookbook.

    With Elisabeth Truchs' Christmas cake recipe as a starting point, I will take a closer look at how Norwegian, and especially the urban areas, eating habits changed during the latter part of the 18th century and the first decades of the 19th century. This was a time when market integration, both globally and nationally, was progressing rapidly, and food was among those that were increasingly traded across borders and the world's oceans.

    Using the foreign foods found in Miss Truchs Christmas cake recipe, I will look closer at how early globalization could be experienced, and perhaps be tasted, in Christiania from the late 1680s until the 1830s / 40s. Specifically, I will look at whether and how the import and availability of international and global foods changed during the period and what drove the development, focusing on trade policy conditions and changes in the understanding of the concept of "taste".

  • The Diplomatic Meal

    Iver B. Neumann, ibneumann@fni.no

    Historically, the diplomatic meal took the form of feasts. Having traced the genealogical preconditions for today’s diplomatic meal, the article discusses its planning and execution by the Foreign Ministry and embassies in Oslo, Norway. These are hierarchized as to locus, with the head of state’s residence on top, the state’s villa of representation in the middle and restaurants at the bottom. In the case of the most elaborate meals served at state visits, planning takes months, and mirrors Byzantine diplomatic meals by attempting to stimulate as many senses as possible. Despite thorough planning and the highly institutionalised character of diplomatic interaction, things go wrong, as little-known food taboos and elliptical communication prove to be spanners in the works of the most elaborate meal.

Session 3 Food Innovation and Identity

  • Co-creation and local community empowerment as drivers for promoting innovation and sustainability in food cultures

    Theano Moussouri, Georgios Alexopoulos and Diana Rahman, t.moussouri@ucl.ac.uk

    This presentation aims to discuss a number of factors that are essential and need to be considered in our quest to shift to a more sustainable food culture. Employing the FAO’s (Food and Agriculture Organization) entry points for transformative change towards sustainable food and agricultural systems and drawing on Eric Wolf’s conceptualisation of structural power, we discuss the potential of food cultures for supporting innovation and sustainability. To achieve that we discuss empirical research conducted in Europe and Asia where different communities draw on and adapt past food practices to develop emergent innovative approaches to food security on a local and national level.

    We reflect on the co-creation activities undertaken by European botanic gardens and their partners in the context of the EU-funded BigPicnic project. We we also examine community initiatives of the Subak System of agricultural practices in Bali, Indonesia. The first example aims to examine how botanic gardens foregrounded community co-creation as a way of documenting food knowledge and sustainable food practices, while the second example explores the role that indigenous food and agricultural practices can play as an innovative force for the future. 

  • From grains to tastes

    Åsmund Bjørnstad, asmund.bjornstad@nmbu.no 

    Up to the 20th century the grains that could be grown and how they were made into food conditioned cuisines and tastes. Different types of wheat are used for foods in different cultures: hard wheats for pasta and bread, soft for noodles, sticky and non-sticky rice types etc. Many of these patterns still prevail as food cultures.

  • Angelica archangelica, from Viking vegetable to Nordic delicacy - on safeguarding traditional knowledge in botanic gardens

    Anneleen Kool, Irene Teixidor-Toneu & Karoline Kjesrud, anneleen.kool@nhm.uio.no

    Through a collaborative research project with grass-root organisations and Nordic chefs we aim to safeguard and revive traditional plant use in the Nordic area. Angelica (Angelica archangelica), locally called "kvann" serves as an example. Angelica has been a valued resource, often referred to as sweet. Its cultivation was once protected by law and it was grown in specific "kvanngarder" in the Viking Age and the Middle Ages. Angelica’s area of distribution expanded over time and its sugar content increased in some semi-domesticated varieties. Angelica has mostly disappeared from Nordic diets, but is regaining popularity.

    Traditional knowledge is increasingly recognised as quintessential for biological conservation and sustainable development. Preserving biodiversity and its contributions to people does not only necessitate the future material presence of this biodiversity, but also the knowledge to grow, process, transform and utilise these species. Traditional knowledge is at least partly tacit, so documentation strategies should always be conducted in parallel with initiatives that support community-based plant use. In botanic gardens we are in a unique position that allows us to preserve living plant taxa while also preserving horticultural practices and encouraging sustainable plant use amongst our visitors and partner organisations.

  • Shaping the local food capitol through 300 years

    Faste Gunnarsen Grodt, faste.groet@gmail.com

    Røros is a mining town in the middle of the high mountains, built by German mining engineers in the middle of the 17th century. By building up the mines here, a number of obligations followed. Among other things, they had to provide housing and access to food and drink for those who wanted to work in the mines.

    The streets were built up as small farms close together and a small piece of associated land outside the center. Here they could have a cow or two as well as some sheep to be self-sufficient in meat and milk products. The provisions houses were responsible for the rest of the provisions and here the salary was exchanged for foods such as grain, peas, fish and other The Røros Museum and the state archives still have some of the original lists that were kept of the provisions from the early 1700s. These are frugally kept and show what was available, at what price and what the individual worker bought. Røros today refers to itself as Norway's local food capital and has many local producers. Are there connections and similarities between today's food products and the one you got in the 17th century?

  • An Acquired taste: Why use food in the museums? How to use food in the museums!

    Sara Heil Jensen. s.h.jensen@khm.uio.no

    Exhibition design and educational programs has developed tremendously, visitors from spectators to our display of objects and knowledge produced by science, to engaged participants. Tangible installations, stunning scenography and digital interaction design has transformed the museum visit to a museum experience. Still most educational program, often favour two of our senses: Sight and hearing: Look, listen and learn. There is a tendency to concentrate on the transference of knowledge using objective facts, while the sensory, subjective experience is seldom valued as an educational tool.

    So how does food fit into this picture?

    When it comes down to taste, we are at the mercy of our senses. Taste is an extremely subjective experience, with no right or wrong answer and we are indeed entitled to our opinion. At the same time tasting something evokes an instinctive reaction, beyond intellectual reasoning and control.

    This provides us with a great opportunity to ask Authentic questions.

    Authentic questions are “questions whose answers have not been prespecified by the teacher and serve to enhance students' achievement by increasing substantive engagement, understanding, and recall.” And it is as difficult as it sounds.

    “An Acquired taste” is the story about how to design an educational program, involving food, and how to ask questions we don’t know the answer to.

    (Nystarnd & Gamoran 1991: Student engagement: when recitation becomes conversation)

  • The role of food and foodways in the pursuit of an inclusive, diverse and open museum

    Sofie Scheen Jahnsen, s.s.jahnsen@iakh.uio.no

    In an age of accelerated globalization, museums are under growing pressure to stay relevant to fast-changing societies. Demographic changes have prompted a search for more inclusive strategies, and museums are presented as arenas for fostering inclusive identities, combating prejudice, promoting tolerance and facilitating understanding. However, studies have shown that despite specific measures taken to include and appear attractive for a more diverse audience, museums still seem irrelevant and alienating for many minoritized groups. Therefore, there is an acute necessity for studies that can throw light on how museums generate strategies for expanding participation in cultural heritage.

    This paper will present ideas and planned fieldwork of a newly begun PhD project with the aim of examining how Scandinavian museums, through the presentation and sharing of food and foodways, can become more inclusive, diverse and open spaces. Food related events and dissemination practices at museums located in Norway, Sweden and Denmark will be explored through fieldwork involving observations and interviews with museum audiences and professionals. This paper will explore preliminary thoughts on the role food and foodways play in a museum setting, how it affects visitor understandings of majority and minoritized heritage, and how food can function as a tool in order to generate community engagement, active participation and the co-creation of heritage.  

  • Tradition and Innovation: The Opportunity for Growth of Artisan Food Producers

    Gregory.Kwiatkowski, Gurid Gjøstein Karevoll, Torbjorn Årethun, Eli Kristin Nytun Leirdal, Gurid.Gjostein.Karevoll@hvl.no

    Artisan food producers are in a symbiotic relationship with local tradition, offering value and uniqueness, and acting as local ambassadors for culture. With a deep rooting in a socio-cultural context, artisan food producers allow their customers to taste, explore a place, and bring with it novel experiences preserving local tradition through their craft. On the other hand, modern markets and customer habits are ever-changing. Existence in this state requires artisan food producers to adapt and change, not only to flourish, but also to survive.

    The ability to balance the uniqueness of their tradition and the innovation required for a business to flourish is crucial for artisan food entrepreneurs, but the question of how artisan food producers manage this feat is yet to be explored. This balancing act raises the question of how artisan food producers discover growth opportunities, particularly how they decide which opportunity to pursue, are the questions this paper aims to answer. Asking a wide range of Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian artisan food producers’ members of the European Culinary Heritage Network, we aim to explore these issues.

Session 4: Food Culture and Sustainability

  • Could South Africa’s historical food culture inform a sustainable future food system?

    Hennie Fisher & Gerrie du Rand, hennie.fisher@up.ac.za 

    Given the loss of life and economic vibrancy resulting from the pandemic and the ongoing degradation of the environment, our agro-industrial food production and distribution systems have no time to lose to adopt sustainable food production approaches.

    Our paper offers insight into historical cultural food practices and how they could possibly inform a more sustainable food future. We used insight analysis to discover patterns in environmental data and draft a detailed summary of the South African cuisine, to suggest relationships between variables regarding geography, general agricultural practices, and cuisine. We offer an introductory insight into the environmental and agricultural business of South Africa, as well as a summary of the cuisines of the four demographic groups of South Africa and how these could inform more sustainable food production practices in future.

    Although people were able to feed themselves adequately in the past by tapping into their cultural food knowledge, it is a concern that now many people in South Africa and the rest of Africa suffer from under-nutrition and over-nutrition  which is possibly exacerbated by unsustainable large-scale food production. South Africa, as a developing country, most probably has the capacity to develop large-scale sustainable food production options.

  • Beer brewing: a crucial, but under-studied tradition

    Lars Marius Garshol, larsga@garshol.priv.no 

    Historically, beer was brewed on just about every farm in Norway, a tradition that most likely goes back several millennia. The beer was a crucial part of peasant culture, required at every celebration of any importance. And yet the history of Norwegian farmhouse brewing before

    1850 has been very little studied, and archaeological studies of Norwegian brewing make little use of what we know about traditional brewing.

    The paper will briefly present key insights from recent ethnographic studies of farmhouse brewing that apply to archaeology, showing how ethnographic studies can inform archaeological interpretation.

    For example, knowing that every farm used to brew for its own consumption is useful for interpretation. As is knowing that they made their own malt, and what types of grain were used.  Some malting and brewing equipment is highly characteristic and exists in a few known types whose history is as yet unknown.

    Some brewing processes leave very specific traces, yet are little known, and likewise have little-known histories. Much interpretation relies on finds of specific plants, but is little informed by studies of which plants were used in brewing. Finally, the paper highlights a number of open research questions that archaeology could help answer.

  • The wild arctic char – from lake to plate

    Julia C. Carrillo Ocampo, julia.carrillo@umu.se

    How can the wild arctic char, from lake to plate make visible the complexity of sustainable gastronomy?

    Sustainable gastronomy is hard to grasp, define and tackle as it involves all aspects of food as sustenance, as identity marker and as culinary heritage. Within its research the voices of Indigenous peoples are also largely missing.  By using the “Follow the thing” methodology and a Cultural Political Economy analysis, this ongoing study will follow the wild arctic char, as a local resource, to explore the construction of different imaginaries of gastronomic sustainability.

    The project investigates how different understandings of sustainable gastronomy materialize in practices and the potential contradictions and/or similarities between the different views. I anticipate tracing different narratives attached to the char in different contexts of the gastronomic sector in the region called Swedish Sápmi. This will visualize potential frictions between different aspects of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. I also expect to explore potential power struggles in the pursue of sustainability, as it touches upon economic factors, that may favour some stakeholders and create a disadvantage for others. Furthermore, by focusing on fish instead of reindeer, I intended to visualize the broadness of the Sami food culture.