The subject sounded like a snooze: food preservation. And yet this year’s Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery last month presented not only fascinating papers but some of the best food in the symposium’s 29-year history.
This annual event, now hosted by St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, has largely maintained its amateur status. Most papers are still contributed by passionate private scholars, and the papers that do come from academics are remarkably free of tiresome careerism. But the meals have progressed far beyond the days when attendees brought their own dishes to a very chancy potluck.
Dinner the first night featured a “preserved” meat – Middle White pig, once England’s leading pork breed, which nearly went extinct after World War II and is now being revived by breeders such as Richard Vaughan of Huntsham Court Farm.
It’s spectacular pork, juicy and flavorful with crisp, delicate crackling. The diners fell upon it like hyenas. The next night’s dinner featured boutique cheeses and sausages (including a spicy chorizo) and very tender smoked lamb, all from Ireland.