Expo Milano 2015: You’ll Wish You Were There

When learning about the appalling levels of food insecurity and waste in our world, one can quickly become cynical about whether these problems will ever be resolved, especially when it seems like so few people in power are truly aware of, much less concerned with their consequences. The organizers of Expo Milano 2015, however, beg to differ. From May 1st through October 31st, the city of Milan is playing host to representatives from 145 nations and international organizations (including Oxfam, the WWF, and the UN) as they participate in a global showcase of food security presentations, proposing sustainable solutions to one of our world’s most dire crises. The theme of the expo, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,’ emphasizes the importance of international coordination in addressing issues of nutrition while respecting our planet’s resources.

Expo2Of course, the expo isn’t all work and no play. In addition to sharing their insights on food security, participating countries share their food culture with visitors through exhibits on their gastronomic traditions and samples of their cuisines. Every participant (country or organization) has its own pavilion or a space within one of the nine Thematic Clusters where it can display its exhibits based on its chosen theme. For instance, the Afghan exhibition ‘Eating for Longevity, Afghanistan Amazingly Real’ can be found in the Spices cluster and aims to rectify cultural misconceptions by showcasing the country’s local foods as well as recent advancements in hospitality and women’s rights. Some of the thematic areas are based on globally-significant foods, such as Rice, Fruits and Legumes, and Coffee, while others, like the Bio-Mediterraneum, are more conceptual, described as providing “multi-sensorial and educational experiences” to educate visitors about the history and future of food through social, cultural (i.e. artistic), technological, and ecological lenses.

Courtesy of corelanguages.com
Courtesy of corelanguages.com

For those of us who can’t make it to Milan in the next 5 months, there is an online magazine that shares photos and highlights from the expo, articles on the central topics, and interviews with various speakers (‘Expo Ambassadors’). There is also a map that shows off the creative designs of the various pavilions, clusters, and thematic areas. I highly recommend checking the site out, although I must warn that it might fill you with a painful sense of sorrow for not being able to see the expo in person. Unfortunately, I had to decline an invitation to participate in a food waste event being held there in June, but I’m sure Expo Milano 2015 will be inspiring several more of my posts here on SayNotoFoodWaste over the next few months. After all, it’s wonderful to see so many people celebrating the value of food to our world and working to make a real, global impact.


PS: The US pavilion has its own website.

The History of American Food Culture

‘How did food become a moral issue in the United States?’ That is the question Helen Zoe Veit must have been asking herself when she began working on Modern Food, Moral Food: Self-Control, Science, and the Rise of Modern American Eating in the Twentieth Century. Using extensive evidence from the period, she persuasively argues that the first two decades of the 1900s witnessed a dramatic transformation in the American diet and public perception of food and health. In fewer than 200 pages, Veit manages to trace the roots of modern American food culture, including foodieism and body image standards, to the developments and, more importantly, the ideals of the Progressive Era.

Cottage Cheese AdFor most of history, people have appreciated food as something more than a survival necessity. Humans have learned how to make eating pleasurable, such that ‘cooking’ doesn’t really mean ‘preparing food so it is safe to eat’ so much as it implies ‘making food that tastes good.’ It wasn’t until the late 19th-century, however, that nutrition science began to emerge, informing people about how their diets affected their health and development. This coincided with the advent of Progressivism, which sought to identify and rectify social problems by turning to experts for solutions. The Progressives valued rationality and morality synonymously, meaning that doing something that Tapeworm Dietmade logical or practical sense was considered ethically sound and vice versa. Veit shows how this rational-moral mentality led people to scrutinize their own diets as well as those of the people around them in a whole new way. Increasing awareness of how food affected the human body not only led people to strive to make healthier choices but also had social implications, such as that excess body fat – once valued as a sign of wealth – was now considered a sign of irrationality, reflecting ignorance, greed, and/or a lack of self-restraint. An entire chapter of the book is devoted to the development of the modern thinness ideal.

With the onset of the First World War, food also became highly politicized, as the government urged people to cut Sugarless Recipesback on eating certain items so that they could be shipped to European allies. With the Progressive ideals of moral rationality in mind, many Americans were eager to practice self-discipline as a reflection of their intellect. Progressives embraced the food conservation movement because it encouraged self-restraint for the greater good, such that the way a person ate was seen as an indication of his or her patriotism and humanitarianism. Food waste, for instance, was considered an extreme moral transgression of gluttons who dared to endanger the starving Europeans only because they could not control their ‘animal appetites.’ As discussed in one of my previous posts, preventing waste was central to the war effort for practical reasons of conserving supplies; but it, like all things related to food, was also given ethical and, consequently, social connotations. ‘Rational’ pertained to the health of both the individual and greater society, such that ‘rational foods’ included nutrient-rich foods as well as what would have once been considered waste.

I have only touched on the bare bones of the book, which also elaborates on ideas of dietary racism, the emergence of home economics and how it changed transformed views of domesticity and women’s roles, and the incorporation of and fascination with foreign foods in the American diet. Using a variety of historical sources and examples, Veit makes a compelling argument for how people came to understand and obsess over food the way they do nowadays. Far from being a dry historical text, the book is a fascinating exploration of the historical underpinnings of modern food culture.

Keep reading and eating,


Living the life down under.

The continent of Australia is full of wonder. Its mainland and neighboring island of Tasmania are home to exotic animals. Some are cute and cuddly, such as kangaroos and koalas, which you can play with in a sanctuary. Some are dangerous, like snakes in rainforests and sharks in coastal waters, which are best kept at a distance.

Still, living under has its perks. The best one is the flipped seasons. As a fan of summer and warmth, leaving winter for the sunshine of Australia is a wonderful treat. However, not all changes are easy to adjust to, such as: driving on the other side of the road. It took me several attempts until I found the blinker signal. Throughout the ordeal, I was left with a shiny window, thanks to the hard work of a pair of windshield wipers that kept reminding me that I was a foreigner to this land.

Being a lover of food, the adventures of discovering a new land didn’t stop at tourist attractions, beaches and mountain parks, they extended to local cafes and dishes.

Below are five things that surprised me most about the Aussie food culture.

1. Hotels that are actually…pubs

Sir_William_Wallace_Hotel_Balmain_1Walking around town, especially in the evening hours, I spotted various hotels. These hotels were pretty loud, had a menu, a bar and served food in the main lobby, well into the evening hours. After visiting one or two, I realized that these were not actually hotels but rather pubs. But, why would anyone call a pub a hotel? A quick google search explains it, and the answer actually makes sense.

The Australian pubs originated from British and Irish public houses. When the British colonized the mainland, one of the first establishments to go up were pubs. These businesses had “multiple functions, simultaneously serving as hostelry, post office, restaurant, meeting place and sometimes even a general store.” As the years changed, activities inside the pubs adjusted to the times, yet the outside name stuck on.

2. Macca’s

maccasWhile studying and traveling abroad, I ran into many Australians who referred to McDonald’s as Macca’s. What was surprising, however, was to see some of the local golden arches actually carrying the name. Whether it’s the love of keeping it short and sweet, or whether the Aussies ‘can’t be bothered‘ with the full pronunciation, their slang won the hearts of the decision makers at McDonald’s, and for the first time in history the restaurant chain decided to alter its image for the local market. Considering that ‘Macca’s‘ is the second most popular slang term in the land down under, right after “footy”, which stands for Australian rules football, this was a smart move by the execs.

3. Breaky

Weetbix_StevageRiding the wave of short and sweet names, it’s important to mention that Aussies are very serious about their breakfast, or ‘breaky‘ as they call it. Many of you heard of Vegemite, a super salty and unique tasting, but also healthy spread loaded with Vitamin B. Yet, there is another morning food that is a favorite in the early hours, a cereal called Weet-Bix. It is made with whole grain wheat and has a malty flavor. Locals love to have it with milk, honey and fruits. In addition to its health benefits, it also has a long history, dating to 1920’s. The brand kept up with current diet trends and comes as gluten-free.

4. Kangaroo Meat

Kangaroo_steakIn the northern hemisphere we love deer, but they are also pests. Without any major predators, deer can reproduce in quick numbers, and wreak havoc on agriculture. A similar thing happens in Australia, but their deer can jump high, hide pups in its pockets and give you a mean kick if you bother it too much. Kangaroos are cute, but their numbers need to be kept in check. Hunters in Australia are encouraged to keep the population at bay by preying on them during certain seasons of the year. The result, the kangaroo skin and meat is put to good use. In diet, kangaroo meat is healthier, more sustainable and a local source of protein. Since kangaroos are active, their meat is a bit tougher than beef or veal, but they don’t travel a long way to get on the plate, and aren’t fed antibiotics and corn, making them the perfect burger or meatball option.

5. Juice Craze

SugarcanejuiceAustralians are juice addicts. Every place I went to, or almost every place, offered a fresh juice. The best part, most of the time you paid a basic price for the size of the juice, small or large (which is more like a medium by USA standards), and then picked whichever ingredients you wanted. It was delicious, refreshing and invigorating, especially on super hot days. This makes sense since Aussies are more health conscious than individuals in America, Britain and New Zealand. This is especially true in areas of: buying food free of additives and maintaining a low fat diet. Yet, despite this awareness, Aussies are just as obese as their overseas counterparts. Despite the conflicting results, it was encouraging to see healthy living videos throughout many of the local metro stations. To discover these  for yourself, visit HealthyMeTv by clicking here.

Australia is wild, amazing, crazy and serene all at the same time. It was an unforgettable experience, both through the food consumed by my eyes and by my stomach. After all, it’s good to have two hemispheres that work backwards, there’s always an excuse to visit the other side, especially when winter pays a visit.

Happy travels and yummy eats!