A special event for food lovers, food writers and editors, chefs, dietitians, vintners, and culinary historians will celebrate Jamestown's 400th anniversary April 20-21 on the Virginia Tech campus.

The spring symposium, “From Jamestown to the Blue Ridge: Cooking Up 400 Years of Culinary History in Virginia,” will highlight Virginia’s rich culinary legacy from the foods eaten in Jamestown to current table fare and their impact on dining in the United States. The symposium will take place in the Owens Banquet Hall and will feature prominent cookery authors and historians.

The two-day culinary tribute to Jamestown’s 400th anniversary is being sponsored by the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Committee and Virginia Tech.

Barbara Haber, author of From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of American Cooks and Meals and former curator at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, will formally open the symposium with a talk on “Food as a Force in Virginia History” at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 20. An evening reception will precede Haber’s keynote address.

Food author John Egerton, one of the founders of the Southern Foodways Alliance and author of 11 non-fiction books, including Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, and in History, will be the second keynote speaker at the grand finale banquet from 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. His topic will be “Pork and Corn . . . and the Rest is History.” The menu will feature historical Virginia foods.

Virginia Tech history Professor Crandall A. Shifflett, originator of Virtual Jamestown will explain dietary challenges at Jamestown on Saturday, April 21.

Colonial cuisine and foodways are next on the agenda, with talks by Nancy Carter Crump, author of Hearthside Cooking: An Introduction to Virginia Plantation Cuisine, who will discuss Colonial and hearth cookery and recipes, and Leni Ashmore Sorenson, African-American historian at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Va., who will offer a look inside Jefferson’s kitchen with information about French-inspired meals.

The Civil War changed eating habits for both soldiers and civilians. Virginia Tech Alumni Distinguished Professor of History James I. Robertson, Jr., author of dozens of works on the Civil War, including Daily Life in Civil War America, will focus on Civil War rations for soldiers. Danielle Torisky, professor of nutrition and dietetics at James Madison University, will explain how Virginia civilians managed to eat during the Civil War despite shortages, blockades, and military occupation.

CiCi Williamson, host of an award-winning PBS series based on the book, The Best of Virginia Farms, is author of six cookbooks and more than 1,500 articles. She will take attendees on a fascinating trip across four centuries of agriculture in Virginia from Indian farming to Virginia’s recent successes in producing great wines.

Before the symposium begins on April 20, tours will be available of the historic 1774 Smithfield Plantation, located adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus, and the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection, in Special Collections at the Virginia Tech Libraries. The collection includes nearly two centuries of historical information about the domestic sciences. Listen to a podcast of Cynthia Bertelsen, chair of the committee that oversees the collection, discussing some of the collection's gems.

Registration is available at a fee of $225, which includes an opening reception, lunch, breaks, tours, and the Grand Finale Banquet on Saturday, April 21. To register, go to the conference website (link above) or call the conference registrar at (540) 231-5182.

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