Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food

The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food has the aspiration to become an annual point of assembly and an exchange of knowledge in the field of the food history. It intends to stimulate debate and research that bridges the gap between different disciplines. Another aim is to transfer academic research to a wider public and stimulate research using the Special Collection of the University of Amsterdam. The symposium is therefore targeted at both an academic and a professional audience.

The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is the result of a collaborative partnership between the Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, University of Amsterdam and the research unit Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Organizing Committee
IJsbrand van Dijk;  Antonia Mazel; Joke Mammen; Jon VerrietIngrid de Zwarte

Advisory Board
Prof. Dr. Ir. Louise O. Fresco; Mrs. Claudia Roden; Prof. Dr. Peter Scholliers; Prof. Dr. Irene E. Zwiep.

logo ASHF 2016


Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food 2016

Friday, 15 January – Saturday 16 January 2016
Venue: Aula of the University of Amsterdam
Singel 411, 1012 XM Amsterdam.


Registration is closed.

Fire, Knives and Fridges (topic)

The material culture of cooking tools and techniques

This year’s topic is inspired by the renewed interest in traditional cooking and preservation techniques, such as baking and fermenting, but also by innovations like sous-vide cooking and molecular gastronomy. Since prehistoric times humans have used tools, such as fire, grindstones, and knives to transform raw ingredients into edible food. Anthropologists such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Richard Wrangham have suggested that it is the discovery of cooking which sets humans apart from apes and makes us a “cooking animal”. In their view, advancements in the technology of cooking mark the human transformation of (raw) nature into (cooked) culture.
From the control of fire onward, technology defines the way we eat: what we eat and cook depends on how we cook it. Tools and techniques are first adopted because they meet a certain need or solve a particular problem, but over time they become an integral part of food culture. Yet, they do not emerge in isolation, but through interaction with local resources, cultural preferences, technological innovations, prosperity levels, and beliefs. The symposium aims to explore how cooking techniques, skills and tools as a form of material culture have shaped food cultures and eating habits – and vice versa.

Call for Papers

For details on this year’s CfP please look here:    Call for Papers 2016
Abstract submission is closed. Accepted abstracts have been notified.


Friday, 15 January 2016

09:00 – 10:00 Registration and coffee
10:00 – 10:05 Welcome Steph Scholten

10:05 – 10:15 Professor J.M. van Winter Stipend 2016

10:15 – 10:45 – Keynote lecture by Ruth Oldenziel

10:45 – 11:15 Coffee break

11:15 – 12:15 Panel 1 – Culinary Identity Formation

12:15 – 12:45 Alexandra Gaba-van Dongen: Cooking tools as artist props : culinary utensils in art

12:45 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 15:30 Panel 2 – Food technologies and practices : an archeological approach

15:30 – 16:00 Tea break

16:00 – 16:30 Mary Beaudry: Gastronomical Archaeology: Food, Mealtimes, and the Materiality Aesthetics of Dining

16.30 Drinks


Saturday, 16 January 2016

9.30 – 10:30 Panel 3 – Cooking tools: usage and interpretation

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee break

11:00 – 12:30 Panel 4 – Re-interpretations of technology

12:30 – 12:45 Conclusion Steph Scholten



Participants are free to make their own accommodation booking. Many hotels are situated in the vicinity of the conference venue in the Amsterdam historic city centre. The following website can be useful:


Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam

The Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam preserve and maintain the academic heritage of the university. There are over a thousand sub-collections, comprising rare and valuable books, manuscripts, prints, photographs and much, much more. The collections serve educational and research purposes but are also there for the general public.

Amsterdam School of Historical Studies, University of Amsterdam
The Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (ASH) is a research institute of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Amsterdam. The institute focuses on culture and history. Research is organized both along thematic lines (religion, the city, theatre, conflict, medicine), and in terms of periods in time (e.g. the classical period, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Golden Age, the contemporary period), which are studied from an interdisciplinary perspective (art, history, literature, music, theatre, etc.).

Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel
FOST is a research group for social and cultural food studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. The research group, founded in April 2003, works in collaboration with the Vlaams Centrum voor Volkscultuur, the Institut Européen de l’Histoire de l’Alimentation and the Institut National de Recherche Agronomique.
FOST aims at consolidating the expertise on foodstudies by inviting (foreign) specialists to workshops and colloquia, by operating within networks, by publishing and contemplating about food studies, and by performing new (multidisciplinary) food research.

Past years:

For the details on the topics and the programme of the Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food of the past years please click on the titles:

2015 – Food, Hunger and Conflict

2014 – Cooking up the Low Countries : Textual and Visual Representations of Culinary Culture in Belgium and the Netherlands (16th-21st century)


The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food has been made possible with the generous support of Amsterdam University Fund, Amsterdam School of Historical Studies of the University of Amsterdam, the Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) research unit of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Doctoral School of Human Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

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