It went by in almost the blink of an eye—or so it seemed. Over the course of two days marked by gloriously warm late spring weather, the Cook / Douglass campus of Rutgers University-New Brunswick hosted “Food and Drink in the Ancient World” (Friday 31 May-Saturday 1 June 2019).
It’s not often that one wants an academic gathering to extend well beyond its schedule, but for many participants, this was such a case. The topics presented here certainly were rich enough to provide discussion for many further days, if not weeks. And then there was the actual food and drink…
This Rutgers international conference (Twitter hashtag = #RUFoodDrink) featured 17 speakers, including presenters from Israel, France, Germany and the UK. Registration pretty much met capacity, and it was hard to spot spare empty chairs during the keynote (by Dr Kristina Killgrove) and five paper sessions. Conference-wide communal meals highlighted the cuisine of Greece, Italy, and—in a bold experimental gesture—ancient Rome. And it was all exquisitely organized by two Rutgers Classics PhD candidates, Emmanuel Aprilakis and Nicole Nowbahar.
An Italian-themed lunch featured on Day 2 of the conference, in the stunning atrium of the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health. Day 1 focused on the cuisine of Greece, and was spectacularly catered by Pithari Taverna (Highland Park NJ)
Co-sponsors were many: the Rutgers departments of Classics, Art History, and Italian, its Center for European Studies, and especially the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (= SEBS), which provided major support. The Classical Association of the Atlantic States helped fund the proceedings with a generous Leadership Initiative Grant. Douglass Residential College generously provided its cheery Trayes Hall for the first day of papers, and SEBS its striking new NJ Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health for the second, which closed with the “ancient” Roman feast.
Crucial support for the conference was offered by Classics chair James McGlew; Dr Robert M. Goodman, executive dean of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences and executive director of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station; and also Dr Lia Papathomas, Director of Operations of the NJ-based team for the innovative New Agriculture for a New Generation Program.
A glimpse of some elements of the recreated ancient Roman feast offered to conference participants after the Saturday paper sessions