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Summer University in Tours: bursaries

photo credit: Flickr, Pug girl
EXTENDED DEADLINE: JUNE 29 Come join us at the Summer University on Food and Drink Studies in Tours, France, from 28 August to 4 September 2016. The summer school is organized for the 14th time by the François Rabelais University and the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA).

For the first time this year, our ‘Shared Taste’ research project – together with the IEHCA – will offer a number of bursaries covering the full registration fee (400€), which covers  (more…)

Lecture: the disputed issue of the origin of noodles

Dough kneading: mural from Zhao Dejun tomb
‘Dough kneading’: mural from Zhao Dejun tomb, near Beijing (China, 10th century)


Lecture: The disputed issue of the origin of noodles: a new comparative approach
Francoise Sabban / Friday April 22, 2016

In this ‘Shared Taste’ lecture, Professor Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) will try to dig deeper into an issue that has puzzled food historians for some time: who invented the noodle first? Were the Italians first with their invention of pasta, or was it the Chinese, with their invention of noodles?

Evidence suggests that making noodles from wheat occurred  earlier in Northern China than in the Mediterranean basin. But why is that the case, when wheat was the most significant cereal of the Mediterranean world? (more…)

Early spices in Amsterdam

At the Asia in Amsterdam symposium which was held at the start of the exhibition Asia in Amsterdam” – which has moved from Amsterdam and will be on view in the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA (USA) from February 27, 2016- , the Shared Taste project delivered a paper presented by prof. Anne Gerritsen on early culinary exchange, entitled “Candied ginger and China root: Asian ingredients in the 17th century Dutch kitchen“.

To determine whether the arrival of Asian spices and other ‘exotic’ ingredients and condiments on VOC ships in the early 17th century indeed influenced foodways in the Netherlands, as is the general assumption, we decided to look for these (supposedly) unfamiliar ingredients in 16th and 17th century Dutch cookbooks, and track the changes over time.

Symposium: Chinese export paintings

Invitation Chinese export paintings symposium

Syposium: Chinese export paintings: studies and interpretations
Date: Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 13:00-17:30 hours
Venue: Museum Volkenkunde, Steenstraat 1, Leiden
You are most welcome to attend after registration: register @

View programme and speakers through this link [PDF]

Speakers from the museum world, art dealers, (art) historians, sinologists, anthropologists and other academics will come together in this interdisciplinary symposium, where the subject of Chinese export paintings will be viewed from varied angles and perspectives.

The symposium is is organized by Anne Gerritsen, Rosalien van der Poel and the Shared Taste project of Leiden University, and hosted by Museum Volkenkunde with generous support from the Hulsewé-Wazniewski Foundation at Leiden University.

Prinsenhof shards

Objects kept inside a museum, displayed in a beautiful or artful way, can only be looked at from a distance : the whole point is to keep precious and valuable objects safe from harm. Yet when one actually touches material culture, there is a spark of communication which leads towards to a whole new way of seeing things.

We had the great opportunity last April to visit Museum Prinsenhof in Delft, where Susanne Klüver held a ceramics session, (more…)

High diplomacy and a humble bean

Soybean shipment in the port of Dairen
Soybean cake in the port of Dairen (Dalian) awaiting for shipment, 1908.
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington DC

High diplomacy and a humble bean: The global entanglement of the Manchurian soybean, 1900s–1930s
Ines Prodöhl / Friday May 1, 2015

In this lecture, Ines Prodöhl (German Historical Institute, Washington DC) will trace how imperialism and globalization converged in the Manchurian soybean between approx. 1900 and 1930.

During this period, a steadily increasing demand for soybeans in Japan and Europe shaped the region agriculturally and economically.

At the same time, the struggle between Russia and Japan for imperial control over Northeast China created a highly complex situation for the growers, processors, traders, and purchasers of soybeans and their products.

The lecture disentangles these mainly transnational relationships and discusses the local impact of a process known nowadays as globalization.

Venue: SieboldHuis (Rapenburg 19, Leiden)
Date: Friday May 1, 2015
Time: 14:30-15:30 hours, followed by discussion, then reception and drinks.
You are most welcome to attend! Lecture is free, please register through alice [at]

Babi Ketjap

babi ketjapLet’s have a look at this text, a recipe from Kokki Bitja, Indonesia’s earliest printed cookbook.

Published in Batavia in the mid- 19th century, it is a collection of short Indonesian, Chinese and even Dutch recipes, written in hybrid Malay mixed with Dutch words – as can be seen from recipe names like Kwe Tulband, Pastij Oedang, or Stoof Ayam.

The cookbook was very popular and was reprinted at least nineteen times, well into the 1940s. The title Kokki Bitja, ‘Beloved Cook’, refers to the author, a certain ‘Nonna’ (miss) Cornelia, living at the ‘Tiada-Katahoewan‘ estate. We know very little about her, only that she suddenly passes away in 1859 only days before publication of the reprint, after a nervous fit in the kitchen while failing her ‘Kwee Broeder‘ cake, as the publishers tell us in their ‘Heartbreaking Words by the Publishers’ of the 5th edition. (more…)

Stir-fry : a history

In our modern life style it is perfectly normal to go to the supermarket for some meat and veg, slice them in bite-size pieces and then X these in a wok or saute pan. When you think about what should come in the position of ‘X’, it is obvious we need a special verb here. We can’t use ‘roast’, ‘boil’, ‘fry’ or simply ‘cook’. These all do not sound right when using a wok. We need a special word to describe what we are doing when we are holding a spatula and preparing something in some hot oil in our woks, a verb which in Chinese is called ‘chao’ 炒.

The character for ‘chao’ shows the ‘fire’ radical on the left and then several strokes on the right, which at a closer look, could really resemble a hooked spatula with some edible chunks to either side, scraping the tilted bottom of a wok. And ‘chao’ing is actually that: scraping and stirring ingredients to cook evenly. (more…)