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October 7, 2013

Exhibit looks at culture and food

UVM student-curated exhibit looks at culture, food

BURLINGTON — Humans’ physical body, psyche and spiritual being are sustained and nurtured by what they eat, whom they eat with and within what context they eat. 

The relationship between people and food is explored in “EAT: The Social Life of Food,” a Fleming Museum exhibition at the University of Vermont.

The exhibit, curated by UVM Honors College students in HCOL 186A: Introduction to Museum Studies, gives a global perspective of food’s importance every day and on sacred occasions.

“We were given the topic of food for the class,” said Cole Burton, a junior and history major.

“Over the semester, we developed the idea that we wanted to focus on the social aspect of food and the many ways it pertains to humans and their lives.”

There are four main areas in the exhibit: “Before Eating” focuses on preparation and production of food products; “Everyday Eating” focuses on how important food is to our everyday lives; “Elevated Eating” focuses on ceremonial aspects of food and also class hierarchy that can be found in food objects; and “Beyond Eating” moves into very theoretical areas, the spiritual connotations around food.

“For example, an Egyptian offering slab that’s supposed to feed the spirit after the person has already passed away in the afterlife,” Burton said.

“Eat,” a vibrant print by Robert Indiana, stands at the entrance to the exhibit.

“It’s Pop Art in nature and shows how Americans really classify food and publicize it. Fast food has really gone into this whole global aspect of eating now with McDonald’s being in China and things like that.”

The “Before Eating” section includes a large rice measure, a saropan gantang, from the Maranao people of the Philippine Islands.

The early 20th century utensil is very large and reflects rice’s ranking as a staple food of the Maranao and the importance of communal meals within Maranao life.

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