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Sharing the Recipe for “Kitchen Literacy”

Date: March 06, 2014
Author Ann Vileisis, speaking March 6, mapped how we lost our way on the road from farm to table, and chart a return to “a purposeful palate.”

CHESTERTOWN, MD— Environmental historian and author Ann Vileisis explored the current disconnect between Americans and their food sources when she spoke at Washington College March 6. The second installment of the lecture series “Recipes for Change: Our Food, Our Future,” her talk on “Kitchen Literacy” was followed by a themed reception, book-signing and information exchange. Washington College students in anthropology professor Bill Schindler’s Global Perspective Seminar prepared fresh bread and homemade butter for the reception.

Vileisis’s book Kitchen Literacy: How We Lost Knowledge of Where Food Comes From and Why We Need To Get It Back traces the evolution of industrial agriculture, the appeal of new technologies that led to the “denaturing of food,” historical trends in advertising and marketing, and the current movement back to what she terms “a purposeful palate.” 

“Where does our food come from?” seems like a simple question. To her surprise, Ann Vileisis discovered that for most people the answer is “the supermarket.”  Too many Americans have lost sight of the long road our food travels and the natural resources, human enterprise, and technology that gets it onto the supermarket shelves. 

“Many of us—our children, especially—are consuming shrink-wrapped, boxed and processed foods without making any connection to the environment, plants and animals that sustain us,” says Ted Maris-Wolf, deputy director of the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, which is co-sponsoring the talk.  “Ann Vileisis is going to help us understand how we got here, and where we might go in the future.”  

Ann Vileisis has appeared on Martha Stewart Living, West Coast Live, and many other television and radio programs. She attracted wide notice with her book on America’s wetlands, Discovering the Unknown Landscape, and has co-authored, researched or edited several additional books and reports on river, wetlands, and fisheries issues. A Yale graduate in history, she has held fellowships at the Smithsonian Institution and from the Ford Family Foundation.  

Sponsored by Washington College’s Department of Anthropology, the Center for Environment & Society, and the C.V. Starr Center, the “Recipes for Change” series provides new perspectives on food and American society and empowers participants to make changes in their own lives, local schools and communities.

The next event in the series features author/filmmaker/nutritionist Amy Kalafa discussing her book Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Children’s Health. The event, part of the Locavore Lit Festival, will take place on Saturday, March 29, 2014 at Emmanuel Church in Chestertown. For a full list of Locavore Lit Festival events please click here.

For more information about “Recipes for Change: Our Foods Our Future,” please visit  http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/starr/or http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/ces/or call 410-810-7161. 


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Founded in 1782 under the patronage of George Washington, Washington College is a private, independent college of liberal arts and sciences located in colonial Chestertown on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship, public outreach and a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large. For more information on the Center, visit http://starrcenter.washcoll.edu.

The Center for Environment & Society (CES) focuses on connecting people with their environment and acknowledging that environmental problems are as much people problems as they are scientific problems. CES offers lecture series and competitively awarded student internships that put students to work on real-world problems. In addition, the Center operates the Chester River Field Research Station at Chino Farms, the GIS lab and two research vessels. Signature programs include the Chesapeake Semester, the regional ShorePower Project, and the Chester River Watershed Observatory.


Last modified on Mar. 10th, 2014 at 10:25am by Michael Buckley.