Panelist and History of Science professor Steven Shapin, who teaches a class on the “History of Dietetics, noted the “immense popularity of food porn,” attributing the increased interest in ingredient origins to the media’s recent focus on the culinary world.
“Fewer people sit down for a meal or cook every day, and thus are concerned about what they are eating when they are not at home, like at restaurants,” he said.
At the same time, television shows have made food preparation “exotic, fascinating, [and] with a touch of alien,” according to Shapin.
The event, entitled “The Locavore’s Dilemma: Eating Locally in New England,” was held in the Fong Auditorium and attracted only a few dozen audience members.
In addition to Shapin, the panel featured John Lee, the General Manager of Allandale Farm, the only farm within Boston’s city limits; Peter Davis, the Executive Chef at Henrietta’s Table; and Martin T. Breslin, Harvard University Dining Services’ Director for Culinary Operations.
The panelists addressed the cost issue of buying food from local venues such as farmers markets, and Lee stated he doesn’t understand the false perception that locally-grown food is more expensive.
“In studies that compared eating fresh-grown local food to [eating] processed food, grown food is actually cheaper,” Lee said.
But Breslin said that the price tag of sustainability depended on the scale of the operations and the types of food required.
“Everything I want to do is purchased locally because it is cost-neutral,” he said. “If it is more, it has to be driven by student body because it is extremely expensive.”
“There comes a point when it costs so much more money and other parts of a meal would be sacrificed,” Breslin added.
For students who are moving beyond HUDS dining halls, Davis advised outgoing seniors to purchase locally, since food preparation is “all about the ingredients.”
“Don’t be afraid to cook...and support farmers markets,” he said. “Look at what looks best and let the market tell you what you will eat.”