Call for Papers 2016 Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food

Topic: Fire, Knives and Fridges

4 March 2015

On 15 and 16 January 2016 the third Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food will take place at the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The Amsterdam Symposium is the result of a collaboration between the Special Collections, UvA, the Amsterdam School of Culture and History, UvA, and the research group on Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Topic: Fire, Knives and Fridges

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

We invite papers that focus on the history and material culture of cooking tools and techniques, and their interaction with food cultures. We especially welcome papers from the perspective of technological, social and cultural history. Topics might include, but are not restricted to the following:


Technological history/archaeology/material culture

  • In general, tools and techniques used for cooking, preservation and eating in domestic households, restaurants, fast food eateries, and street vendors.
  • The influence of new cooking technologies on cuisines and dishes
  • The organisation of professional kitchens based on cooking techniques and tools


Social history/anthropology

  • The influence of cooking and eating tools on time consumption, etiquette, table manners and social distinction
  • Tools specific to society, culture and place
  • Religious cooking techniques and tools


Cultural history

  • The representation, mediation and promotion of (new) cooking tools and techniques in cookery books, literature, magazines, advertisements, and audio-visual media

Guidelines for Paper Proposals

The conference program consists of plenary keynote lectures, paper presentations and panel discussions. If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, please submit an abstract before 30 April 2015. Please expect to be presenting to a large audience of up to 300 people, including academic as well as professional participants. The conference language is English. Presenters of accepted papers are asked to speak 20 minutes, followed by a discussion with the panel and the audience under the supervision of a session chair.

Applications should include:

  • title of proposed paper;
  • abstract (maximum 500 words);
  • biographical information (short CV);
  • contact information (email, telephone and postal address).

Applications should be sent by the deadline of 30 April 2015 to:

Notification of Acceptance

As it may not be possible to include everyone’s submission, the organizing committee and advisory board will make a selection. You will be notified if the paper is accepted by 30 June 2015.

More Information and Updates

Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food

Organizing Committee

Filip Degreef; Joke Mammen; Antonia Mazel; Nathalie Parys; Steph Scholten; Ingrid de Zwarte.

Advisory Board

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


Published by  Special Collections UvA