A few weeks ago, I made the decision to do a food blog. Because my husband is a computer guy and I am fast writer, we were able to have the blog up and running fairly quickly. At around that same time, I became aware of three food conferences in Maine, all happening in September and October.
First there is Maine Fare, to be held from September 11th to September 13th in Camden, Maine (http://www.mainefare.com). Maine Fare bills itself as “An annual event which showcases and celebrates Maine’s natural culinary resources…. Maine Fare investigates the history, present and future of Maine’s wonderful food, from farm to table. The goal of the event is to communicate the importance of preserving, protecting, and sharing Maine’s storied culinary history and its rich and developing resources.” My husband, Clif, and I will be going to this conference on Friday and Saturday, and we are hoping to have a weekend of good food and provocative panels and lectures.
On October 2nd through October 4th, at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, there’s a conference called Food for Thought, Time for Action (www.coa.edu/html/foodsystemsconference09.htm). From the College of the Atlantic website, here is a description of the event: “Our fall conference on sustainable food, farming and fisheries will bring together a diverse range of practitioners, farmers, fishermen and scholars to discuss current issues and chart a course toward a sustainable future.” The food writer and professor Marion Nestle will be one of the keynote speakers. Clif and I hope to attend this conference on Friday, October 2nd. Unfortunately, we will be busy for the rest of that weekend.
Finally, from October 22nd through October 24th, there is Harvest on the Harbor in Portland, Maine (www.harvestontheharbor.com). Sponsored by the the Greater Portland Convention & Visitors Bureau and described on its website as “Three chock-full days in which to experience the flavors of Maine, all on the magnificent coast during the beautiful harvest season,” Harvest on the Harbor sounds more like an eating event than a consciousness-raising event. But who knows? Perhaps food issues will be slipped in somewhere between the eating. However, our schedule is so tight that weekend that we won’t be able to attend even one day of Harvest on the Harbor.
But there’s even more. On the networking site Eat Maine Foods (/www.eatmainefoods.org/ ) there is a list of more upcoming Maine food events, with enough issues to satisfy the most ardent food activist. I’ll let readers discover these events for themselves by going on the Eat Maine Foods website.
So what’s going on? “Food is big,” my husband observed when I broached the subject with him. Yes, it is. But hasn’t food always been big? After all, without food, we die. That puts food, as a human concern, way at the top of anybody’s list. What seems to have happened is that lately food has become a hot topic that has stretched the boundaries of sustenance. It runs the range from being highly profitable entertainment to being seriously political. As a foodie, I can only rejoice there is so much out there nowadays about food, so much mindfulness, so much variety. (Being a native Mainer, I can remember the old days of grocery shopping in Maine, when celery was about the most exotic vegetable available.)
But I also have two very different worries. The first is that there will be overkill, so to speak, and people will become weary of hearing about all the various food concerns, from sustainability to food justice in struggling countries. And with overkill can come indifference and boredom, which are never good. The second is that all the pleasure will be squeezed out of eating, that we will rock between anxiety about eating the “right” food and guilt over the abundance we are blessed with, legitimate concerns that nonetheless have the potential to be killjoys. With our Puritan heritage, which still ripples around us, this is no idle worry, and Americans already tend to have ambivalent attitudes toward food.
I know. Why can’t I just revel in all the food events that are coming my way? Because ’tis my nature to worry. But not all worry is bad. Sometimes it brings reflection and illumination, and perhaps I will have some of both over the next month or so. In the meantime, I’ll be eating, thinking, and writing.