Woman smelling unmarked vial in front of sign "this is no wine-and-cheese. The taste(s) of food studies(s)"

A Taste of Diversity: The 2018 Conference of the Canadian Association for Food Studies

June 2018

By Andrea Noriega

In keeping with the Congress 2018 theme of “Gathering Diversities” the theme of this year’s Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS) conference was “Growing Diversities,” and it held true to it’s name! With the sensory saturated experience of last year’s conference still ringing in the minds of CAFS attendees, the open-arm-hospitality of the University of Regina (host of the 2018 Congress) was an unexpected but welcome change for many.

Neatly nestled in the quiet but picturesque skirt of Wascana Park, this year’s conference surely reminded many about what the different shades of Canadian diversity can look like. And, in contrast to the 2017 Congress, the term diversity—particularly as it pertains to food studies—took on a more salient meaning than in has in past years.

The 2018 CAFS conference boasted several panels on food systems, Indigenous food systems, and urban food systems. These separate but interrelated topics were fertile grounds for fruitful discussion on the practical and logistical considerations for the implementation of such things as urban chicken keeping for personal use, rooftop gardening, and municipal policy on bee and pollinator protection. It also involved thoughtful and open discussion of Indigenous hunting practices and the need for communities to define food sovereignty for themselves. These topics, which became core to this year’s conference, were complimented by the dynamic contributions of several independent filmmakers, whose films addressed topics such as food systems in complex urban communities, as well as the consumption of insects as more sustainable global food sources.

Series of colourful square papers containing seeds, shards of plastic, and other broken objects.
CAFS 2018 Exploration Gallery, University of Regina Seeds in Paper – Networks of Nature Installation Art by David Szanto Photo credit: Andrea Noriega

Additionally, through the generous support of the National Film Board of Canada, this CAFS conference was able to showcase films such as Angry Inuk and Blue Fin, both of which demonstrate the ongoing tensions of interspecies relationships and human reliance on animals as food. The film screenings were paired with a side-serving of installation-art by academic and artist David Szanto, whose interactive works commented on the food systems as inextricable networks. The conference provided a diverse buffet of ideas, approaches, and contributions. All of which were underscored by the actual buffet of prepared by the talented Sioux Chef, who catered the CAFS banquet dinner. And while each of his dishes was delectable, the most savoury treat the Sioux Chef offered was his stories of the cultural significance of the Indigenous cuisine he prepared. This was tasting diversity at its finest.