Sour, Peppery, Sweet: A History of Hungarian Cuisine with Nada Zece

Sour, Peppery, Sweet: A History of Hungarian Cuisine with Nada Zece


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Is goulash a soup or a stew? What medieval food is part of our healthy diet today? And do we still drink black soup? Let us trace the tastes, colors, and textures of Hungary's traditional food in their historical context together with a local food expert.

The seminar explores the world-renown Hungarian culinary tradition. By observing diverse influences evolving from the country's extraordinary past, it reveals how historical nutrition and food shaped the social practices and perceptions of modern Hungarian culture. To explain the country's renowned culinary diversity, the seminar gives an overview of the circumstances that, since the Roman times, directed the use of ingredients, methods of food preparation and food consumption that we commonly see today as the Hungarian contribution to the culinary tradition of Central Europe.

With its "chronology of taste" (sour-peppery-sweet), the seminar addresses the historical change which influenced the varying ingredients and contexts of food consumption over a longer period. We’ll start by addressing the transition from the Roman diet to the meat consumption of the migrating Hungarian groups (5th to 9th centuries) to the differences in using and perceiving food among the high-medieval courtly elite and peasants (14th to 15th centuries) to the early-modern refinements brought from the Ottoman East and other parts of Habsburg Empire (16th to 19th centuries).

We’ll discuss how these changes were comparatively put to the socio-cultural context of modern Hungarian society, namely by asking how the historical food is used today and how/why changes in its use happened. With plenty of exemplary stories about prominent local individuals and their attitudes to food in the country's past, the recovered diversity of the Hungarian historical cuisine prompts a wider critical reading of our modern food habits, raising our awareness about the potential of organic nutrition in Central Europe and a “slow-food” approach which it brings to the modern lifestyle. This is a wonderful conversation for anyone with an interest in culinary and European history.

Dr. Nada Zecevic is a historian of Central and Southeast Europe, with research interests covering the region's medieval and early-modern elites, historical migrations, and modern uses and abuses of the past. While she currently teaches at the Goldsmiths University of London, where she also leads the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, Dr. Zecevic does her research in the Hungarian archives, and globally promotes interdisciplinary humanities. Dr. Zecevic is the author of two scholarly monographs and the co-editor of the upcoming Oxford Handbook of Medieval Central Europe (2020/2021). Herself a dedicated traveler, in her work with the public, Dr. Zecevic aims at conveying the historical experiences of space and mobility to the learning needs of the modern contextual travel explorers.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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